QuickLit – November 2017

I’m celebrating another gangbusters month for me, friends! Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share on her QuickLit¬†post, where we share short, sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately. Here are my reviews for the NINETEEN books I tackled in November. Some classics, some shorties, some super fun reads! Scroll til you see something you want to hear more about!

01 Bird BoxBird Box by Josh Malerman
It’s been a while since I did an “in one day” book binge of this nature, but I knew I wouldn’t sleep if I didn’t finish this book before bed. Eesh. Edge of my seat for hours on this one. Your imagination just completely steers the show, and I loved it. Malorie lives in a post-apocalyptic terror-filled world where people go insane and kill themselves if they SEE something outside and is raising her two children alone. Buckle up and take some Xanax, you’re going to need it.
02 Two Girls DownTwo Girls Down by Louisa Luna
Now, this was gripping. Alice Vega is called in as a PI to investigate the disappearance of two young girls, who went missing from their mother’s car while she ran into Kmart to grab a birthday party present. When Vega gets into town, she slogans herself with Cap, a disgraced police officer who resigned from the force and became a PI himself. His connections through his previous job prove invaluable as they attempt to track the girls down. This novel is plotted so well with so many twists and turns and plenty of action. Definitely some trigger warnings for those who need to know about such things. This book would be great for fans of the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).
03 Sisters ChaseThe Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy
I enjoyed this one on audio (even though I’ve owned it in paper for 6 months and haven’t touched it), but wouldn’t call it “gripping” like the flap copy suggests. Instead, I’d call it a touching investigation into what it means to be sisters and what it means to lose a mother. Mary and Hannah lose their mother Diane when Mary is 18 and Hannah is 4. Mary is now Hannah’s legal guardian, and they spend their time crossing the country, looking for a new place to call home. Sarah Healy writes well, and the story is compelling and readable, but if you’re looking for something gripping, I’d move along.
04 Murder on the Orient ExpressMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This was just great. My first Agatha Christie, but not my last. Dan Stevens’ narration (and his voices and accents!!!) is just completely spot on. He’s phenomenal. I love the way this comes together right at the very end. Just fun. But seriously, get the audio, because Dan Stevens.
05 Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
You guys, I can say that I’ve been firmly removed from the anti-Celeste-Ng train by this book. Her characters are so well-developed, I can see them in my head, I feel like we are friends. I love each of them in their own ways. No one is fully good or fully bad, they are all real people. The book starts with a fire at the Richarson home, burning it to the ground. Then, we back up: The Richardson family comes into contact with Mia and Pearl Warren when they rent their little duplex out in the picture-perfect community of Shaker Heights. Pearl becomes friends with each of the four Richardson children in different ways at the high school. Throughout the book, the allusions to fire and burning are artfully sprinkled throughout. The theme is so strong without being pushy. I just loved this entire examination of friendship, and motherhood, and community, and neighborliness, and art. It’s just great. Read it.
06 Theft by FindingTheft By Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris
Five months later, I finally get to put this on my “read” shelf! This is just what it sounds like: a collection of diary entries from David Sedaris, starting in 1977 and ending in 2002. His short, daily (but whittled down… we are not reading every single day) observations of the people and society around him are at times funny or poignant. At other times, it’s fun to see him develop as a writer as he becomes more well known in the literary world. I actually cried at one point (real tears, not “laughing so hard I cried” tears), something that Sedaris has never made me do before. I chose to read this one a year at a time rather than sit through it all at once. At the beginning, he says he pictures it as a book that you just flip open and read an entry, but I did enjoy the slow, sure development of him as a person, from young adult to 40 years old. So, I would read a YEAR in between other paper books, and highly recommend that simmering pace for this collection. If you’re looking to bust a gut, as you can regularly expect from his other works, this isn’t that book. UNLESS you listen to the audio version. I got to see him speak in mid-November after I had finished this one, and he read some of the stories aloud… I busted a gut.
07 To All the Boys I've Loved BeforeTo All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
I thought this novel was fun, but ultimately, forgettable. The premise is sweet: Laura Jean writes letters to the boys she has crushes on when she is “done” with that crush. Somehow, those letters are discovered and mailed to each of the boys, and Laura Jean finds out when they start approaching her to ask about them. She is mortified and tries to deal with it in such a 16-year-old way. There’s so much angst and drama in this one, it felt like a fun binge read, but I cannot imagine that I’ll even REALLY remember the details in six months. Pick it up if you need something fun and sweet, but don’t expect much more than that.
The Fifth Doll by Charli08 The Fifth Dolle Holmberg
Not my favorite of hers. I’d put so many characters and worlds that Holmberg has created above the ones from this story. the premise itself is definitely interesting, but I think it would have made a better short story. Matrona lives in a village that’s perfectly ordinary with perfect weather and lovely neighbors. There’s the odd madwoman and the drunk, but otherwise, it seems just fine. But it’s all an illusion, and as Matrona figures that out, we get rather dragged along on the journey. Charlie can do and has done better as an author. I will continue to seek out her books in the future.
09 Rabbit CakeRabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
This novel is about Elvis Babbitt and her family as they suffer through the loss of her mother, from suicide or accident, we don’t know. Her sister Lizzy is a sleepwalker, just like their mother, and often gets into tough or scary situations while asleep. Elvis and her father deal with their grief as well through the course of the book. In all, I thought it was very well done. Elvis is definitely aged in the middle-grade timeframe, but the themes and language in this novel disqualify it as a middle grade read. I do recommend this one, even though parts were a bit tough to listen to (I did the audiobook).
10 The BlindsThe Blinds by Adam Sternbergh
This book. Wowzers. Took me a while to get through but not for lack of wanting to read! Sheriff Cal Cooper helps run the town of Caesura, known locally as The Blinds, where no one knows their own history, but everyone has one. And as far as we know, very few are Innocent. Fran Adams, Cooper, and 6 other residents make up the original 8, the people who started the town 8 years ago. There are now quite a few more residents and a lot more drama, as we are faced with a suicide and a murder within just a few weeks of each other. Sternbergh’s plotting is tight and fast-paced. His characters are mysterious and interesting. As a reader, you’re not sure who to trust or where things are going next. Just how I like it.
11 Astophysics for People in a HurryAstrophysics for People in a Hurry by Niel deGrasse Tyson
I may be in a hurry, but I’m also amazed. Our universe is big, diverse, and astounding. Tyson describes it from the smallest atomic particles to the largest planetary scales. You will feel infinitely miraculous while acknowledging at the same time how incredibly tiny and insignificant we all are. I thought this was a great listen (narrated by the author) and would recommend it wholeheartedly.
12 Little House in the Big WoodsLittle House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Can my review of this classic just be lots of smiles and heart eyes? I’m pretty sure I’ve never read this one before, even though it kind of feels like it should be required kid reading! I read a few chapters out loud to the boys, but not the whole thing, because I’m also doing a read along with friends, so I can’t wait for those slowpokes! Anyhow, can’t wait to move on to the next one and read more about Laura and her family.
13 GeekerellaGeekerella by Ashley Poston
This was super fun geekery in fairy tale format. All the Cinderella elements are here, but with movie stars and remakes and fangirls and food trucks. The whole thing is just super fun and sweet. It was a quick audio listen and I’d listen again (if my TBR weren’t as out of control as it is) to catch all the fun details. Recommended for fans of fairy tales or other nerds like me. ūüôā
14 Wind in the WillowsThe Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Although I do see why this one is a classic, it didn’t strike me as something one MUST read in order to fully comprehend the beauty of classic literature. It’s plenty fun, but I’ll stick with Anne and Tom and Huck for my childhood hijinks and leave Mr. Toad on the Disneyland ride where he belongs in my memories.
15 Same Kind of Different As MeSame Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
This was a quick but powerful listen about the true story of an unlikely friendship, told from the point of view of the two friends. I will warn you that I was a teary disaster face for the last 15% or so of this story. Highly, highly recommended social justice read. Shocking to me how little I knew/ know about the modern-day slavery that was sharecropping, but not shocked at all by how it plays into the current African American experience. This is simply a short but heartwarming and heartbreaking read, all stuffed into 240 pages.
16 Little House on the PrarieLittle House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Although I seriously enjoyed this book, just like its predecessor, it was definitely hard to read in parts. I didn’t read these as a child, so I don’t have the nostalgia factor to carry me through the charged descriptions of interactions between the white-settler Ingalls family and the native Americans they aim to displace as they move west to the Prarie. It was a different time, of course, and I recognize that. But it’s just hard to consider reading this aloud with my kiddos without some serious discussion. However, all that being said, the descriptions of Prarie life and settling a new homestead, and the seasonal way of eating and living are just enchanting to me. Of that, I could not get enough.
17 Death Comes for the ArchbishopDeath Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Reading challenge category: a book that takes place in New Mexico.
I read this book to check off a reading challenge category, and oftentimes I felt like I was kind of slogging through it. but I’ll tell you what: no one loves NM like the readers of this book love New Mexico. Every time Cather describes the landscape, the world slows down and you get a little taste of the beauty that is this state. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book where the setting is as much of a character as any protagonist. This is the book to read if you’re wondering why someone would wish to live a mile high in the desert in a land where no one shows up on time anywhere and it hardly rains. The slower pace of life in the 19th century means it takes 2 days to get from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, instead of today’s hour, and you get to enjoy the landscape the whole way there.
18 The Turquoise TableThe Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell
Good thing I liked this book and ordered my own copy because I accidentally set my coffee mug on the open page and I’ll have to replace the library copy anyway. Oops.
This goes right along with the neighboring/ hospitality bug that has bitten me over the past few years, ever since reading The Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon and Jay Pashak. I envision a neighborhood that feels like community and Schell has great suggestions for ways to make that happen on a small scale instead of relying on the big parties and movements that happen occasionally but don’t change the everyday that much. Coffee and cookies and conversation around the table. Being present, Front Yard People. It’s on my list!
19 I'm Judging YouI’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
I had some serious highs and lows reading this book. some chapters seemed SO petty and ridiculous and like filler, some were SO vitally important and I found myself not just highlighting but tearing up and amen-ing my way through those chapters. I have to say that I wasn’t already familiar with Luvvie Ajayi, so I didn’t come into this with any preconceived notions about what this book should or shouldn’t be. The cover and introduction did make me expect slightly more humor and sass than I found herein. Which is fine! Do be aware that you (we) will be judged from everything from racism to social media oversharing to homophobia to desiring fame to misogyny and rape culture. There are zero punches pulled in this collection of essays.

QuickLit – October 2017

Here’s my fantastically fun roundup of my October 2017 reads. Short and sweet reviews of each of the 18 books I read this month (I abandoned one other that I was supposed to read for a book discussion but I just COULD NOT get into it).¬† Scroll until you see something you like!

01 Love And Other Consolation PrizesLove and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
Jamie Ford does it again with the poignant, sweet, historical novel based on the raffling off of a child during the Alaska Yukon Pacific world’s fair in 1909. Yung/Ernest Young is a child brought over as an orphan from China when he is only 5 years old. He is shuffled from orphanages to boarding schools and never adopted since he is mixed-race (half Chinese, half Caucasian). We get to see Ernest’s life from his golden years, as he interacts with his aging wife and grown daughters, and from his childhood, after he is raddled off and subsequently raised in the premier brothel of Seattle. The sense of place, characters, culture, and history, are all so well-developed in this novel. Recommended.

02 Young Jane YoungYoung Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
I picked this up because so many friends loved it, but I probably would have anyway since I loved Storied Life so much. This book isn’t like that at all (ha!), but it is great, and well-written.
I grabbed the audio on Hoopla and really enjoyed the same story told from 4 different perspectives (although when I had only gotten through the first one I was wondering how in the world she was going to fill the rest of the book). The plot of this one centers around a relationship/affair between a congressman and a young – half his age – intern in his office. Aviva Grossman is our main protagonist, but we hear from other people in this drama as well. Definitely enjoyed this and it makes you think twice about who pays the price in a scandal of this sort.

03 Swimming LessonsSwimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
This one was a bit slow and plodding to me. It drew me in right away and then seemed to throw on the brakes. I think that’s because there really wasn’t that much to say. I liked the juxtaposition of the old letters reminiscing about older memories with the more current events happening now. I did think it was well written, it just didn’t interest me as much as I expected it to after the first 3 pages.

04 How To Fix a Broken RecordHow To Fix a Broken Record by Amena Brown
I will hereby admit that I had heard Amena speak before, but not perform, and hadn’t read any previous books. So, I was a fan, but not a lunatic obsessive. In this book, though, she reveals herself and her journey in such vulnerable and beautiful ways, it’s going to be hard to maintain that status. Amena’s writing (about everything from songs that changed her life to the broken records we all play in our heads to the chance to discover her ancestry to the churches she attended and what they meant throughout her life to the loss of a baby and the desire to get pregnant) is poignant and reflective and beautiful without feeling *poignant* and *reflective* and *beautiful*. Instead, it feels more like a dear friend talking to you over coffee, but with a great turn of phrase and depth of feeling.
*I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are my own.*

05 Ender's GameEnder’s Game by Orson Scott Card – Full Cast Audio Play
Listened to the Full Cast audio play (for FREE) on Audible channels. This was a fun way to listen to this one! So many voices, it really brings it to life. Ender as a character and the world building that OSC does during this novel are both fantastic. Ender (Andrew) Wiggin is a child who is basically “bred” to be the next pilot in a war against the species that almost ended humanity the last time they met. As a young child, he is taken from his parents and siblings in order to train to be an army commander. I’m a fan, but despite the setup for the next book at the end, I feel fine leaving this after book 1.

06 Sacred MarriageSacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Finally picked up this book that I, embarrassingly, own in multiple formats… mostly so that I can read his new book, Sacred Parenting, afterwards.
I definitely learned a lot and highlighted a lot and felt convicted by this book, but I also feel that it’s a bit dated and masochistic. Every woman that gets upset is “hysterical”, almost everything is directed towards men (written by a man, so I get why, but still a bit annoying), and quite a few of the personal stories feel like “our marriage is awesome because we’ve worked really hard at chasing after Jesus” from the author. Just a bit annoying.

07 Castle of WaterCastle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge
Please hold while I finish wiping my eyes and blowing my nose……. (Mary, you didn’t warn me!)………
Okay, ahem. so, Barry goes down in a tiny plane among the Tahitian islands, along with two other passengers and the pilot. He and newly-married Sophie (whose husband went the way of the pilot) wash up on the same shore. Dane Huckelbridge is an amazing writer. His prose is beautiful without being anywhere near overdone or bourgeoisie. He weaves in French speech but doesn’t leave us hanging as to what it means. He creates plot and drama without it feeling like there would be no book without it. Really, this was just masterfully done, but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the crying thing.

08 100 Cupboards100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
I really enjoyed my first read of this series and will definitely seek out the others in time. The whole principle is just so interesting and I love the idea of it being an adventure for a couple of kids. I did think this was going to be more geared toward little kids, but it had plenty of “scary” moments so I will hold off on recommending it to my oldest son for a few more years. Overall, a solid read.

09 The Midwife's RevoltThe Midwife’s Revolt by Jodi Daynard
This historical novel is so well done. Daynard meticulously researched this time in history and it shows! Her main protagonist may be a work of fiction, but her experiences, her scenery, and her character are all closely aligned with early American history, when we first became a country. I really loved the feminine perspective of the way that women contributed to the Revolutionary War from home while their men fought the redcoats. Well done.

10 I Thought It Was Just MeI Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brene Brown
This book was really timely for me as we are dealing with some neighborhood issues and fallout and the person running the circus uses shame and accusation to get what she wants. It’s super hurtful and harmful for all involved. I’m glad to have listened to this collection of research and observations about shame and resilience right before and during the situation came to a head. Brene Brown asks the hard questions but has the great answers as well. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, this one or The Gifts of Imperfection would be a great one to start with.

11 Find Love in a BookshopHow to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
This is just a lovely, fun read, full of bookish sweetness, a bit of romance and music, and a whole lot of bookshop dreams. Emilia comes home as her father lays dying. She is, of course, left the bookshop that she grew up in, located in the English village of Peasebook. The plot just skips along in this one like a stone on water. Curl up with a cup of tea and enjoy it! Bonus likeability points: main character Emilia plays the cello. ‚̧

12 Tom SawyerThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
With almost 602,000 ratings on Goodreads, there is surely nothing for me to add to this classic. Tom Sawyer is a typical little turd kid. He’s into mischief, distracted by girls, and always seeking adventure. His friendship with Huck Finn is timeless. The prose of the book feels very similar to “the guy version of Anne of Green Gables” to me. Anne is, of course, all of the above as well, so I feel like they make good complements for each other.

13 Dear FahrenheitDear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
This was short and fun and sweet and entertaining! I often feel like I’d like to write a letter to the books i read, or the authors of said books. I’m only knocking down a star because I’m absolutely sure this could have been totally filled with letters in her fun snarky tone instead of the lists at the end of the book, which felt more like fillers. I mean, she’s a librarian, so I get why she feels like she has to curate a collection for us, but the letters were just far more fun. My favorite letter was, absolutely: Dear library in Beauty and the Beast. All the heart eyes for that one!

14 Be Frank with MeBe Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne
I’d put this in the solid 3.5 star range for me. It has all the elements of books I love, but it just didn’t feel like a book I loved or was driven to reach for every day. It felt more like “better get through this one so I can move on to the next!” Frank is only young, but I’d seat this book in the “adorable curmudgeon” camp with regard to his behavior and the way he likes things a certain way. Fans of The Rosie Effect, a Man Called Ove, or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine should enjoy this one as well.

15 Charing Cross84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
This collection of letters from author Helene Hanff to and from Marks&co bookshop in London is just fun and dreamy. Buying classic books across the pond for $1.35, her gushing about how they are the most beautiful books ever, and a 20+ year friendship between not kissy Frank Doel, her primary correspondent, but his co-workers and family. The whole tiny book is just delightful.

16 In The WoodsIn The Woods by Tana French
Definitely enjoyed this one and super excited about the fact that I’ve heard these just get better. I found this story plenty gripping and couldn’t put this one down. Detective Ryan and his partner investigate the murder of a young girl (trigger alert) outside of Dublin. When Ryan was young (before he changed his first name), he was part of a trio of friends in the same area, under investigation because 2 of the 3 disappeared without a trace. The current case brings back plenty of memories for him. Excited to see where this goes in later books.

17 29 Gifts29 Gifts: How A Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker
I thought this was a short, fun examination of the ways that giving and gratefulness can affect our daily lives and cultivate happier, healthier, more open hearts. I probably wouldn’t have picked this up if it weren’t an inexpensive audible deal of the day a few months ago, but I did enjoy it. I’m knocking it down in the rating though for two reasons: 1) while I appreciate that the author saw great changes in her physical health and struggles with MS during her challenge, I was annoyed with her attitude about the entire thing. 2) During this challenge, the author and her husband had to ask for a $16K bailout loan from her parents due to her inability to work regularly and the medical bills that piled up after her diagnosis. Then, every time she hit a milestone of some kind they would “go out to celebrate”. What? Let me tell you how you avoid 16K in unnecessary credit card debt…. stop going out to eat every time you have a good day! -Sorry, I know I’m getting really judgy here-
Of course, those things annoyed me but not enough to not finish this book and be inspired to start my own giving challenge. November starts in two days, and I think that would be the perfect time to move forward with a challenge of this nature.

18 Fierce KingdomFierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
Could not put this one down, even though it seriously screwed with my head for the two days I was reading it! Lincoln and his mom Joan are getting ready to leave the zoo at closing time, and she hears some pops. As they near the exit she sees a man with a gun. Insanity ensues. Gin Phillips takes one of my favorite places (the zoo) and turns it into a scary game of survival. We get to examine the way a mother loves her child and the bond between them in such a unique way. It’s rather astounding. Kept me on the edge of my seat. I was dying to know what happened even as I couldn’t stand to read anymore.

QuickLit – September 2017

Wowzer, readers, did I ever have a month! I pledge to read my shelves in September, mostly because I bought a new bookshelf in August for my physical TBR shelf, and I couldn’t fit all my to-be-read books on it! That was embarrassing. So, this month, I decided to tackle some of those that have been sitting there begging for me to read them on my Audible account, Kindle, and physical bookshelf. I read a LOT of books…. but I STILL can’t fit all of them on my shelves! Are they having book babies? Here are short reviews of the 23 that I read this month.

02 Between Shades of GrayBetween Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
I felt like this was irredeemably sad, especially for a young adult book! I found myself zoning out, mostly for self-preservation. I did appreciate the history and the personal family connection, but yeesh, young adult stories about the Holocaust/ Soviet evacuation of Lithuania…. I’m gonna go ahead and give a hard pass to these stories in the future.

01 All Grown UpAll Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
This “novel” reads much more like a collection of short stories that jump around in place and time and settle around the life of Andrea. She came off to me as rather self-centered and whiny (I believe I told my husband this book was about a snatch who boohoos her life in NYC the whole time). I’m not even really sure why I finished it, except to say that it’s less than 200 pages, so it’s not some giant time commitment. The part that annoyed me most is how even though we’ve been introduced to someone multiple times before, we are still given their descriptors like it’s the first time: Nina my co-worker, Greta my sister in law, Indigo my best friend…. yes, we know….


04 Of Mess and MoxieOf Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker
Audiobook is totally the way to go on this. Jen is fantastic, and you feel like you’ve got your BFF chatting in your ears. She made me double over in laughter while tears squeaked out of my eyes; she made me ponder the depths of my knowledge of God; she made me look at my friends and my marriage with brighter eyes; she is fabulous. I love that she takes a little hatchet to her previous books as well, because a little (but not too much) self-deprecation never hurt anyone.

03 The Almost SistersThe Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
I loved this book. Family and comics and sisters and the South and race relations, all wrapped up in a sweet, messy package. Leia is a comic book artist, a big one, and she ends up pregnant after a sexy run-in with Batman at a ComicCon in Atlanta. At the same time as her unexpected pregnancy, her sister’s marriage turns sour, and her grandmother starts losing her marbles. She pulls these threads together in such a fun, wonderful way. This was my first Joshilyn Jackson novel, but it won’t be my last. ‚̧ ‚̧

05 A Court of Wings and RuinA Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
SJM is a fantasy master. This is almost 700 pages of awesome writing. That is all.
Actually, I’ll add that this third installment gives all the fantastic Rhys and Feyre relationship without the terrible Tamlin drama (a wee bit but not like the previous books). I loved it.

06 Peter PanPeter Pan by J.M. Barrie
2017 may be “the year of the classics that I’ve always loved but never read” for me. Peter Pan is so much more conniving and selfish in written form. Mr. Darling is so much more endearing and sweet to his children. I loved getting to “revisit” this adventure for the first time in written form. Audible narration by Alan Munro is lovely (although his voice for Tinkerbell when heard at 2x is completely ridiculous! $1.99 on Kindle. Great on audio!

07 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
In the same vein as The Rosie Effect and A Man Called Ove, Eleanor Oliphant is endearingly oblivious to the social norms of the world around her. She has her routines, and is happy to continue in them until her life gets disrupted by a co-worker and a crush. This book is sweet and quick and oh so readable. I loved it. Warning to HSPs: as I am not a Hightly Sensitive Person, I really enjoyed all of this book, but there are some topics that are tough. Eleanor had a rough childhood and her relationship with her mother reflects that throughout the book. There are details about that relationship. If this sounds like something that might not work for you, skip it.

08 Does This Baby StraightDoes This Baby Make Me Look Straight? by Dan Bucatinsky
Definitely some laugh out loud funny moments, stories that make you shake your head, and sweet reminiscences. Mostly a collection of stories that reminds each of us that families are made in every way, and, no matter what yours looks like, the common thread is love. Dan and his partner and their two kiddos embody this perfectly.

09 The Bookshop on the CornerThe Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
Warning: if you have ever had the desire to open your own little bookshop, this will fuel your dreams to kingdom come! Very charming and sweet story, full of bookish love, and British humor, and Scottish countrysides. All lovely things. Nina is me in my dreams. Her relationship status is a take-it-or-leave-it aspect of this book. But if you love books and bookshops, it’s worth picking up with or without the romance.

10 More of LessThe More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Already Own by Joshua Becker
Another inspiring book about minimalism. This one is well done, succinct, and inspirational in that it’s not JUST about paring your possessions, but about finding charities, people, and places to spend your newly freed-up money, time, and donate-able items. A great reminder that beckoning minimalist isn’t about getting rid of the world, but rather about being able to invest in it more fully.

11 Words in Deep BlueWords in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
This is a sweet, fun story that I will also be filing under “so you want to own a bookshop”. The Bookshop in this story has this unique Letter Library in it, where people leave notes and letters and underline favorite passages and argue with one another about the content of their favorite writings. I could not love this idea any more.

12 Before We Were YoursBefore We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
This novel is part southern mystery (great on audio with the two narrators’ accents), part expos√© on the adoption/baby market of the 1930s and 40s. Follow Avery (in the present) as she unravels the secrets of her grandmother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and Rill (1930s) as she and her siblings are taken from her parents and placed into an orphanage. Heart wrenching and difficult, but very well written.

13 Fantastic Mr. FoxFantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
This one by Roald Dahl is pretty short, but it’s just super fun. Both of my boys couldn’t wait to read the next chapter each night. The sillines sof Mr. Fox and his family are just too much fun for kids to resist. As mama, I was equally happy with this one. Now to watch¬†the movie with the kiddos! If you haven’t seen the claymation release from a few years ago, be sure to check it out. My favorite part is the “cussing”. ūüôā

14 Coming CleanComing Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller
This memoir recounts the childhood of Kimberly Rae Miller. She grew up with a father who hoards paper of all kinds, and a mother that tries to fight it but eventually succumbs to the situation and adds to it with a Home Shopping Network addiction. Throughout her childhood and young adult life, Kimberly feels she has to shield her friends from her home life, is called upon by CPS, and often finds herself living in squalor. Every time the family moves, she feels like it will provide a fresh start, and then the home again falls into disrepair. Such an insightful look at the childhood of hoarding parents.
Free on Prime reading library.

15 Still LifeStill Life by Louise Penny
Plenty of cozy mystery and fall in this novel. I made it through this time (96% on audio and then read the last 15 pages when my headphone died). I mostly remembered the first 1/3, so that part felt a lot like skimming. it would appear I abandoned this one last time JUST before it started it get more interesting. glad I stuck with it. probably won’t go chasing after the next ones in the series, but I’ll be glad to have them on the back burner for fall reads in the future. I do love the “softness” of Gamache, and the way he hasn’t let the job make him mean or jaded. he’s a great main character to build a series around.

16 Four TendenciesThe Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
I’m obsessed with the Four Tendencies and want to talk about it with everyone, so I love that Gretchen wrote a whole book about them. Here she discusses how to identify your tendency (I’m an Obliger, which I’ve known forever), what that tendencies strengths and weaknesses are, how they relate to others, etc. She also looks at different tendency pairings to dive deeper into the benefits and challenges that you might experience if, say your spouse is the same tendency as you or an opposite tendency, or if your child is. Such a great deep dive into one of my favorite topics. I’m sure I’ll be pulling this book out again and again.

17 ArtemisArtemis by Andy Weir
I didn’t find this one QUITE as quick and compelling as The Martian, but definitely enjoyed it! Artemis is the first city on the moon and Jazz is the young, spunky smuggler who is always trying to make a buck by providing the citizens and visitors with forbidden items. She gets pulled into bigger and bigger scheme as she attempts to make life on the moon work for her. This novel is so fast-paced and fun. highly recommended. I’m sure that, like The Martian, the science isn’t 100% infallible, but it’s still intriguing and interesting without being dumbed down or overwhelming. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an Advance Review Copy!

18 Loving Grover ClevelandThe Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane
I thought this was a wee bit crazy (pun intended). This book is about a small group of teenagers at a summer camp for kids with “heightened mental and emotional states”. each of them is struggling with something awful. This isn’t exceptionally written or particularly noteworthy or memorable, but it came together well.

19 Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
It took me six months to read this sweeping epic classic, but it was worth every moment. The complexities of this novel had me drawing character charts in my head at night. Reading it through Serial Reader (app) was the best way to digest it in small bites instead of getting overwhelmed by it. Highly recommended, especially in that format.

20 Reading PeopleReading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
As a longtime fan and follower of Anne Bogel, I was ready to pre-order and dig into anything she wrote, no matter the topic! All that to say there wasn’t any guarantee I was going to enjoy it. Thankfully, this book delivered in a big way.
Whether you’re a budding personality-quiz aficionado, just enjoy an occasional Buzzfeed insight, or love diving deep into all the personality frameworks, this book is for you. Anne distills everything you need to know about MBTI (and cognitive functions), Strengths Finder, Enneagram, the five love languages, Highly Sensitive People, etc into easy to read and digest paragraphs. For those of us that love her for her literary taste, you won’t be disappointed either, as she relates many of these frameworks and their variations to well-known literary characters (because, hello, Modern Mrs. Darcy!).
This was a delightful listen and read and I look forward to referring back to it again and again. Currently $2.99 on Kindle.

21 Strengths FinderStrengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath
I just HAD to finally get into Strengths Finder after finishing Reading People by Anne Bogel. I love that this research-based draws on interviews with 100000+ people and focuses on promoting the talents we already possess instead of trying to shore up weaknesses. Let someone who is good at that thing do what is hard for you! you have other gifts, and SF is about finding what those gifts are and using them to your advantage and the advantage of those around you.
PS. not that strengths are extroverted or introverted in themselves, but my Strengths together basically scream extrovert.

22 Mrs. DallowayMrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
This was definitely a case of right-book-wrong-time for me. Or maybe “I can see that this is good, but I do not like it”. I was so bored by this classic novel. The only redeeming factor for me was the narration by Juliet Stevenson, who just has a great voice. The characters, the plot, nothing did it for me on this one. Too bad, but onto the next!

23 Parnassus on WheelsParnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
I love short little books that are easy to read but full of all kinds of happy fun. This is just one of those books! Helen lives on a farm with her brother. She spends plenty of time doing exactly the same thing every day, for 15 years. When a book wagon named Parnassus drives up with an offer to buy, she decides it’s time for an adventure and jumps in the driver’s seat. Bookish fun ensues, along with a little dose of love. This little novel was just a blast. I loved every second. Only 99 cents on Kindle.


QuickLit – August 2017

Linking up to¬†Modern Mrs. Darcy¬†for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share ‚Äúshort and sweet reviews of what we‚Äôve been reading lately‚ÄĚ. I‚Äôll share everything I‚Äôve read over the previous month here at the end of each month, in the order I finished reading¬†them. I read 12 books in August, including 2 chapter-book-read-alouds with my kiddos, both by Roald Dahl, the master of children’s fiction in my book! This month was a bit slow for me also (I know, lots of excuses lately) because I LEFT MY KINDLE ON AN AIRPLANE! Although Delta assures me they’ve been “looking for it diligently”, it has officially been 3 weeks since we got home and they haven’t located it yet, so I’m ready to hold a small service in memoriam. Thanks to my mama for providing me with¬†her Kindle Paperwhite, which sat unused on her desk for three years. Glad to say it’s already been used more in the past five days than in all those years combined. Happiness all around.

Here’s the quick recap of what I read this month. Skim until you see something that piques your interest!

01 Every Last LieEvery Last Lie by Mary Kubica
I have really enjoyed Mary Kubica’s writing in the past. Enough to interview her for this website! With that in mind, I had high hopes for this one as well, but it just didn’t live up to my expectations. It seemed almost dumbed down for the reader, repetitive and slow and somewhat predictable. I just didn’t love it, even though I expected to. Sorry to not be willing to rate this higher. I had a friend that said it felt like she was just churning these out as quickly as possible because of the success of her first one, and that feels about right.

02 Charlie and Glass ElevatorCharlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
Definitely not on RD’s list of greatest hits, this book basically centers around two adventures for Charlie and crew: going to space and then messing with the ages of his grandparents. I felt it wasn’t really enough to build a story on. My kiddo did enjoy it, but not so much that he was begging to read it, which is why it took more than two months to read this slim volume aloud.

03 GraceLacedGraceLaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart by Ruth Chou Simons
RELEASES TODAY! This book is just stunning in every way. It contains 32 devotions that are so manageable and easy to read, but encourage a depth of faith in just 2 pages a day. The paintings, photos, and lettering make this book feel like an experience more than just something to read. It is akin to walking through an art gallery while meditating and praying. I will give this book as a gift in the future, of that I am sure. So happy to be part of the #gracelacedbook launch team. I did receive a copy for review from the publisher, but have since ordered additional copies to give away. It is definitely worth your pennies to own the paper copy of this one!

04 A Court of Mist and FuryA Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
I had a hard time deciding between 4 and 5 stars for this one, it’s SO good. Maas continues her story of Feyre and Hamlin and Rhys (OMG, all the heart eyes) in a dark, twisty, sensual, epic way. It’s so readable and just so good. These 625 pages just flew by. I probably would have finished this in 3 days instead of 10, but I was on family vacation and then, oh the humanity, LEFT MY KINDLE ON THE PLANE!! So sad there is a waitlist for the next one in this series! (Which I just got my hands on yesterday, so expect that review in September’s QuickLit!)

05 Being MortalBeing Mortal: On Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
This phenomenal book draws on many years of medical experience and interviews with experts in the field to fully inform the reader about elder care, the history of death and dying in our country, and end of life decisions regarding health, death, and what life is left to be lived. it takes a realistic look at the medical system in order to give us a broader picture at what COULD be and the ways we can make the right decisions at the end of our (and our loved ones) lives, instead of the decisions that just pursue not dying at all costs. Highly highly HIGHLY recommended to everyone, ever. especially those in the medical field. I feel like this book should count as a continuing education course in itself.

07 Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
So fun and sweet and easy to listen to. I loved getting to meet Rishi and Dimple and delve deeper into the Indian culture that nurtures him and pushes her. This nerdy couple is just what I hoped for and I found myself all kinds of wrapped up in this story by the end! I’d give it 5 stars, but this isn’t a beautiful, life-changing amazing book, just a fun one.

06 Side HustleSide Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau
This book is just the kick in the pants you need to get your side hustle started! This 27-day program mirrors Chris’ podcast (Side Hustle School) in a few ways as it introduces you to stories about side hustlers as how they got started. But it also breaks down the process into very concrete and small, manageable daily steps, starting from the very first one: figure out why you want a side hustle. Without a clear goal in mind, what’s going to keep you going? If you’ve thought of a side hustle as a way to earn extra income (I have), and want someone to take your hand and lead you through the process, this is a GREAT book. This book was certainly enough for me to launch my OWN Side Hustle, which you can check out here!
*I received a complimentary advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review* #sidehustlebook

08 Royal WeThe Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Well, this was certainly fun! If the pacing was a bit off, it was mostly made up for by the fact that the British royal family is the perfect subject for fun, fluffy ridiculous fiction, and I essentially enjoyed every minute of it. Since I finished this book in the middle of the month, I had two friends write to me to ask for a light-hearted read, and this book was at the top of my list for recommendations!

09 Reset Child's BrainReset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time by Victoria L. Dunckley, MD
I think this book could be condensed quite a bit and be just as, if not more, helpful because it wouldn’t be so daunting. there is so much great research in here and helpful case study examples, but I found myself skipping and skimming so I could get to the sections that were more practical. To that end, I did find it immensely practical and put SO many post it notes on the side of my library book to mark passages. I will be trying my own reset (For myself and my children, and probably my husband ūüėģ), and then recommending this to everyone I know. If you’re interested in just the nuts and bolts of the program, you can check out the companion website here.

10 Bridge Across the OceanA Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner
I thought this book was… fine. It certainly wasn’t what I expected it to be about, which is fine. It just seemed a bit forced, and maybe disjointed, to me. We’re following the stories of Brette and Annaliese and Simone and an unnamed ghost character? And of course they end up coming together, but it just seemed kind of weird and ridiculous. Still, a quick read and I wouldn’t recommend AGAINST it. so, 3 stars it is.

11 Elephant in the RoomThe Elephant in the Room by Jon Ronson
“The idea of Donald Trump and Alex Jones and Roger Stone and Stephen Bannon having power over us ‚ÄĒ that is terrifying.”
Well, terrified we are…
I picked this up because I really enjoyed Jon Ronson’s work about the internet and public shaming (So You’ve Been Publically Shamed). It’s just a little 48-page account of his friendship with Alex Jones and his experiences at the Republican National Convention. But, without the benefit of the hindsight we now have: that Trump does win the election. Mostly, it was just terrifying in the worst way. Like, all your nightmares from this book come true and that’s the world you wake up in the next morning.
I read this book for free on Prime Reading. I feel like I need to delve deeper into that collection to see what else I can find!

12 TwitsThe Twits by Roald Dahl
This wretched couple exactly embodies the humor of Roald Dahl to a T. So funny. My kids and I were both laughing through this whole book. BUUUUUUT, I did keep hoping I wasn’t giving these brothers any ideas as to how to be mean to each other!

QuickLit – July 2017

Linking up to¬†Modern Mrs. Darcy¬†for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share ‚Äúshort and sweet reviews of what we‚Äôve been reading lately‚ÄĚ. I‚Äôll share everything I‚Äôve read over the previous month here at the end of each month, in the order I finished reading¬†them. I read 12 books in July, but two of them were over 500 pages (Yay for completing one of my reading challenge goals twice over!). I was also a little slow this month because I lost one of my headphone ear buds, so my audiobook listening was severely hampered #firstworldproblems.

Here’s the quick recap of what I read this month. Skim until you see something that piques your interest!

01 Other EinsteinThe Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
I liked this “shedding of light” onto the first marriage of Albert Einstein. based very much upon the letters, moves from place to place and what is actually known about Einstein and his first wife, Mitza, this book is a fictional retelling of what their marriage may have been like, what she may have contributed to his work and theories, and what their courtship and home life may have looked like. This was a fun and interesting choice for this year’s #biglibraryread through Overdrive.

02 HitchhikersThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I just don’t get it. the popularity of this book astounds me. I want to say that it’s mostly due to the fact that, at the time it was published, it was ahead of its time? and maybe the snarkiness? but, really, I found it pretty dull and am only bumping it up to two stars based on the narration by Stephen Fry, which was on point and¬†perfect¬†to keep me engaged when I felt myself drifting.

03 Magnolia StoryThe Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
This quick read was SO good. Narrated by Chip and Joanna, the audiobook is just perfection. The couple talks about how they met, how their business grew, and the way they have seen God work his providence through their lives. The Gaines family is super well-known, but their backstory is just lovely. highly recommended.

04 Crown of MidnightCrown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas 
What a great follow up to the first book! I felt like I was right on the edge of my seat for so much of this sequel. Celaena, Chaol, Nehemia, and Dorian are all amazing characters. Maas does a great job following the storyline of each protagonist without leaving you feeling overwhelmed at the sheer number of characters. Excited to read the 3rd installment!

05 Dreamland BurningDreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
After the setting is in place this story is really wonderfully done. Rowan and William are both well-developed characters and their stories are compelling and driven. The historicity of this novel combined with the storytelling makes it really come together well. definitely recommended and I look forward to more from Latham.

06 A Court of Thorns and RosesA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
While hunting for food in the forest in order to help her impoverished family survive the winter, Feyre shoots a GIANT wolf, who happens to be Fae. The price for killing such a beast is death, but the Fae Lord (Tamlin) who comes to exact that punishment offers the opportunity to come live on his lands instead. Loved¬†it,¬†but found it the slightest bit predictable in places. Still, this world-building is incredible and I’m excited to see where this story goes in the next books!

07 Mary PoppinsMary Poppins by P.L. Travers
This was so sweet and fun. Mary Poppins is much stricter and more conniving than her movie portrayal would suggest. she is feisty and has a mean raised eyebrow. Jane and Michael (and their baby twin siblings!) learn so much and are desperately in love with their nanny through all these antics. such a wonderful read/listen.

08 How Not to Hate Your HusbandHow Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn
I thought this was funny and well put-together, and I’ve already found myself recommending it multiple times. It didn’t apply to ME so much, and I’m so grateful for that (I think if I had read this 5 years ago, I probably would have bought my own copy and highlighted half of it). Hubs and I have done the hard work to get to where we are today, and I could tell by the way I was reading this book that it’s working. Instead, I need the alternate version: how not to hate your kids after kids (or something), because man, oh, man, these kiddos take me OUT some days!

09 Witch's Vacuum CleanerThe Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner by Terry Pratchett
A fun and whimsical collection of short stories. I’m glad I got this for free through Audiobook Sync. I probably should have abandoned it. Or maybe I shouldn’t listen to audio collections of short stories. I found myself zoning out, but each sentence of a short story is so important that it becomes hard to follow (you can’t just pick up when you start listening again and piece together what has happened in the meantime!). I’ll probably listen to this again someday with my kiddos, as they were all age-appropriate for youngsters.

10 The DryThe Dry by Jane Harper
A page turner, to be sure, this debut novel transports you to the parched landscape of a draught-stricken town in Australia. We follow Aaron Falk to the town of his childhood, where he attends the funeral of his childhood best friend Luke, his wife, and his child, in what appears to be a murder- suicide. Luke’s parents want Falk, now an agent wth the federal crimes division, to investigate further and hopefully clear their son’s name. but the drama pulls Falk down. The town is teetering on the brink of madness as crops and livestock perish from lack of water. I found myself insanely thirsty as I stayed up reading past my bedtime.

11 Heir of FireHeir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Celaena continues her ass-kicking ways in book 3, but first, she has to allow herself to properly mourn the friends she has lost and left behind. This book follows three concurrent storylines: that of Celaena, that of Dorian and Chaol, and that of Manon Blackbeak. They mostly don’t intersect, so I’m guessing that book 4 will bring them all together.

12 I Am PilgrimI Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
This beast of a book is LONG but so good! It centers on the cases and investigations of Scott Murdock, who no longer uses that name. He is a special investigator who writes a book about his varying investigations. The book opens with a murder in which the killer used the book to plan the “perfect” crime to escape capture and detection. We then get to travel back in time to visit previous cases and maybe, possibly, save the world, or at least the United States from extinction by smallpox. It’s a fast-paced thriller and great on audio. Reading challenge goal: a book over 500 pages = complete!

QuickLit – June 2017

Linking up to¬†Modern Mrs. Darcy¬†for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share ‚Äúshort and sweet reviews of what we‚Äôve been reading lately‚ÄĚ. I‚Äôll share everything I‚Äôve read over the previous month here at the end of each month, in the order I finished reading¬†them. I read 16 books in June, even though by the end I felt like it had been a “slow” month. That turned out to be incorrect because I had zoomed through so many books at the beginning!

If you scroll all the way through to the bottom, you can see an update for my 2017 reading challenge, since June marks the halfway point for the year.

Here’s the quick recap of what I read this month. Skim until you see something that piques your interest!

01 WithWith: Reimainging the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani
This book such a great way to self – examine the way you relate to God and changes it up to pursue true relationship instead of trying to live under, over, from, or for God. each of those other four postures lives up to our human desire for control, but is incapable of allaying our fears! But Christ came to restore relationship with God, not to give us rules, free us to indiscriminate sin, provide the desires of our hearts, or require our service. he simply came to be WITH us. I found this book to be an easy, quick read with life – changing implications. Hoping to see it “stick” in my life and actually change it!

02 The BreakdownThe Breakdown by B.A. Paris
I thought this new thriller, from the author of Behind Closed Doors, was just as gripping and twisty as her first novel.¬†Cass is driving home on a dark and stormy night and takes a shortcut, which is twisty and spooky. She passes a car broken down on the side of the road but the driver doesn’t signal her so she moves on. The events over the weeks following this incident lead her to believe she is having a breakdown of her own. Psychological thrillers are totally my jam and this one holds up to the hype! #whocanyoutrust #thebreakdown
Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

03 Stay With MeStay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo
I thought this was beautiful and excellent. Reminded me of Americanah in the Nigerian present and past nature of it, the developing of the two stories concurrently. This story is heartbreaking and truthful and insightful. There is quite a bit of sex and talk about sex, but I wouldn’t consider this a romance, but more a truthful look at a long, complicated marriage, so just be aware. Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

04 The Girl BeforeThe Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
So delightfully twisty and mysterious and creepy. I had heard somewhat mixed reviews on this one but it did not disappoint. It really came together well in the end and I found myself unable to put this one down. Jane and Emma live in the same bizarre, minimalist home a few years apart. They each arrive with their own baggage, and Jane attempts to figure out what happened to Emma, the girl before.

05 Exit WestExit West by Mohsin Hamid
I liked this, but mostly because I felt like I should and because it feels lime the right book at the right time. which is to say, it wasn’t like I liked it because it blew me away as so wonderful or well-written or eye-opening. it is what it is. a short (231 pages) and interesting/different look at the refugee crisis and the Westernized response to said crisis. Nadia and Saeed are young people living in an unnamed middle eastern country torn apart by riots and militant revolution.

06 DumplinDumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Oh, Willowdean! Loved this book. Loved the main character and her boldness and vivacious attitude. Loved the way the author showed us her self-doubt without her becoming self-deprecating. Loved her falling into first love and first kisses and first holding hands. Loved her taking control of her life and her destiny. I just loved the whole damn thing. Read it!

07 The Last TownThe Last Town by Blake Crouch
Wowzers. Sent my boys to a birthday party and read this one in one sitting! The conclusion of the wayward pines trilogy completely lives up to and fulfills the previous two novels. It’s all the drama and thrills and gore (ick) we’ve come to expect without feeling like he’s just rehashing the same plot or drawing what should have been one book out into three. For anyone who is a Kindle Unlimited member (I’m not, but you might be), this series is free!

08 I See YouI See You by Clare Mackintosh
This gave me the heebie jeebies. Clare Mackintosh is definitely not a one-hit wonder. I thought for sure she wouldn’t be able to follow up I Let You Go¬†with anything nearly as twisty and unexpected, but she does it here. As an author, she’s great at taking the reader down many paths of suspicion without you feeling like you can’t trust her. Really well done.

09 The Zookeeper's WifeThe Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
I thought this was an interesting look at the Zabinski family, who ran the zoo in Poland during WWII. They used the zoo to protect their Jewish friends and neighbors and smuggle them out of the Warsaw ghetto. I felt like the author had a hard time straddling the non-fiction/novel line, which is why I’m not rating this higher than 3 stars. I was happy to listen to this one for free using the Audible Channels for Prime. They have at least 30 audiobooks at any given time that members can listen to at their leisure (but not download). Just another perk of being an Audible member¬†(side note: super good deals on membership right now because Prime Day is right around the corner!).

10 Throne of GlassThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Girls who kick ass are always on my thumbs up list! Yes to this series. Can’t wait to read the next one. Celaena Sardothien is an assassin who serves in the hard labor camps to pay for her crimes. She is then chosen by the Crown Prince to be “his champion” in a competition to become the King’s royal assassin. I listened to this one on audio, which I felt was a good choice, especially for the first part of this series, as I would have been pronouncing the names all wrong in my head!

11 If I RunIf I Run by Terri Blackstock
Casey finds her best friend dead and knows she’ll go down for it if she doesn’t run. so we follow her and get a bird’s eye view of the case from the PI trying to follow her as well. This book wasn’t quite as twisty as I like, and I can honestly say I didn’t think the sub-genre of Christian thriller existed, but Terry Blackstock proves me wrong. Overall, compelling and well done. Happy to have received this one for free from the Audiobook Sync program, which provides two free audiobooks a week for the whole summer! We’re already on week 10 for this year, but there’s still good stuff coming up. Check it out here!

12 Gilded CageGilded Cage by Vic James
The gilded cage imagines an alternate world where the Equals (the elite of society) are not just the richest and most powerful, but are Skilled with powers like magic to create, destroy and manipulate the physical world around them as well as the emotional abs thought lives of others. the unskilled ate commoners, each required by law to serve 10 years of slavery in service to the Equals. It is this world into which we are thrust to follow the story of one common family (mainly their children Abi and Jake) and one Equal family (and their 3 sons: Gavar, Jenner, and Silyeun). As the common family starts their years of servitude, they are torn apart and sent to different locations.
I thought this book was decent at creating this alternate reality, but not so great at developing the thoughts and actions of the characters. It seemed somewhat rushed, especially toward the end. Not sure if I’ll pick up the sequel when it is released.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

13 Red TentThe Red Tent by Anita Diamant
I love the retelling of an old story in a new way. It took me quite some time to get into this book (the first 30 pages took me a solid 5 days to read… yikes), but eventually, the story of Dinah and her biblical family drew me in. I love the rhythms of life from the old testament and the sweetness of mothers and daughters. I love stories of midwives and births. I love ancient Israel and Egypt.

14 SourdoughSourdough by Robin Sloan
This was a fun, quick read that made me want to eat really good sourdough for every meal for the rest of my life. based in San Francisco, this reminded me a bit of a word food network show premise: girl at a tech company receives sourdough starter. She doesn’t know how to cook or bake, but opts to learn and see where the starter takes her. The answer: adventure! I really enjoyed this next book from Robin Sloan. It was totally different from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but just as fun and interesting. Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

15 The Impossible FortressThe Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak
This was short and sweet and so fun. Not high literature by any means, but definitely full of nostalgia and sass and laugh out loud moments. Nerds, lovers of the 80s, and computer/ video game geeks unite. I was happy to be reading this at my parents’ house over the weekend, and to get to chat with my dad about it (he worked at Intel throughout the 70’s 80’s and 90’s, so he’s all about the old-school computer jargon). I think it would be a great story for the dude in your life who doesn’t necessarily love to read.

16 Forgetting TimeThe Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
My favorite book of the month was also the last one! As my friend Lis predicted, this was especially poignant for me as I hold my baby Noah and read about little boy Noah who is terrified of the water and is maybe, possibly remembering a previous life. Noah’s mom Janie cannot explain her son’s fear of the bath and washing his hands. Psychologists tell her he might need antipsychotics. She is desperate for answers. This book was unputdownable. Totally engrossing.

Who can believe the year is already half over?? Here’s a little update on the reading challenge I committed to at the beginning of the year:


At the moment, here’s where I stand on these categories:

  • 113 books completed. Well over halfway! That’s more than 35000 pages read so far this year!
  • Only 49 were books I owned, so I have been reading more than 50% borrowed books.
  • Only 11 have been by authors of color, so I definitely have some reading to do in that area.
  • Have not yet read a short story collection
  • Have read books in translation (almost all by Frederik Backman)
  • I’ve already read 30 non-fiction books and memiors!
  • Working on The Count of Monte Cristo for the author that died before I was born, but also read Louisa May Alcott and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • Have read two books under 100 pages
  • Reading Monte Cristo which is well over 500 pages, but haven’t finished it yet!
  • Have not read a book in NM
  • Have read 2 books by LGBT authors
  • Have read a few award-winners.


Audiobooks for Summer Road Trips

There’s nothing like hopping in the car for a summer road trip, knowing there’s 1,000 miles of open road ahead of you, and wondering how you’re going to fill the time. Sure, you might be able to sit shotgun and read the whole time, or you might end up throwing up from motion sickness. Audiobooks are the perfect solution to that dilemma! And the best news is that there are audiobooks of every length, so you can find the one that perfectly fits your roadtrip needs!

If you’re new to audiobooks, be sure to take a look at the free trial membership for Audible. You’ll get two free audiobook credits when you sign up, and then it’s just $14.95 or less per month thereafter (or cancel during your trial and keep your two free books!). Especially helpful for the MONSTER audiobooks at the end, which are, as may be expected, more expensive than the shorter novels.

Other great options: check your local library to see if they have either books on CD or a digital membership option (like: Overdrive, Hoopla, or CloudLibrary). Then, you can borrow audiobooks for free! Digital downloads also allow you to speed up the narration (one of my favorite tricks for getting in some additional reading time).I have personally listened to each of these stories on audiobook and am arranging them by road trip length, so it’s easy to find the one you need!

Now, onto the recommendations! I have personally listened to each of these stories on audiobook and am arranging them by road trip length, so it’s easy to find the one you need!


Short and Sweet – half a day (>6 hours)

03 Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – 4 hours, 52 minutes

Get the Jake Gyllenhall narration, because his voice is just dreamy and perfect for this classic.

04-the-alchemistThe Alchemist by Paolo Coelho – 4 hours

Narrated by Jeremy Irons, this classic adventure tale is perfect for a road trip.

9 - My Name is Lucy BartonMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – 4 hours, 12 minutes

This book gets a lot of love. It is kind of like a character study or a collection of short stories about the main character and her mother. If you want big plot though, take a pass.

51qKM1sZiTL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_The Crossover by Kwame Alexander – 2 hours, 16 minutes

This is a middle-grade verse novel and was my first introduction to the genre. Hearing a verse novel read aloud is absolutely the way to go, although the text is often beautifully arranged on the page as well. This story about a middle-grade boy who plays basketball will captivate all ages.

16-born-standing-upBorn Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin – 4 hours, 3 minutes

Steve Martin reads his own memoir and plays banjo during the interludes. Although this isn’t quite as funny as you might be prepared to think (no risk of not being able to see because you are crying laughing), it will still bring you some great laughs!

11-the-outsidersThe Outsiders by S.E. Hinton – 5 hours, 12 minutes

This classic story about Pony Boy and his brothers was written by a teenager! Once you get your head around that, you’ll listen to the story of two rival gangs, the Socs and the Greasers. It’s a classic for a reason, and you’ll find elements of Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, and even Grease (the musical) in this tale.

Medium Length – a full day’s drive (6+ hours)

12-food-a-love-storyFood: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan – 7 hours, 17 minutes

This collection of stories, read by the author, is so funny that I’ve listened to it twice and laughed even harder the second time. Jim Gaffigan is 99% kid-safe, so we listened to this one with the kids in the backseat and had them laughing right along with us.

as you wishAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Carey Elwes – 7 hours, 1 minute

Any Princess Bride fan will love this collection of stories about the making of one of the best films of all time (yep, I’ll stand by that until I die). It’s mostly narrated by Elwes, but he brings in so many friends from the cast to help, I put it at 96% odds that you’ll watch the movie again when you’re done.

18774964A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman – 9 hours 9 minutes

Backman’s first work is mostly about a grumpy old curmudgeon who misses his wife so much that he’s pretty sure he should follow her to the grave. But his needy neighbors continue to ask for his help, fouling up his plans. Later made into an equally endearing movie, this gem of a book is perfect on audio, at least partly so you don’t have to wonder how to pronounce the Swedish words.

09-the-roadThe Road by Cormac McCarthy – 6 hours, 39 minutes

A post-apocalyptic story about a man and a boy on the road is perfect for a road trip. Some rough content in this one, so probably steer away from listening with little ears around. This classic is so well done.

born-a-crimeBorn a Crime by Trevor Noah – 8 hours, 50 minutes

Trevor Noah is the host of the daily show, but his memoir will take you back to his childhood in South Africa and open your eyes, make you laugh, and horrify you. I firmly believe that audiobook is the only way to experience this book, as Noah (who narrates it) speaks so many languages and they just roll off his tongue!

19 At Home in the WorldAt Home In The World by Tsh Oxenreider – 7 hours, 17 minutes

Whether you are setting out for adventure or you are on your way back home, Tsh’s book is the perfect companion for your family travels. I read this early this year and knew it would be one of my favorite books of the year. That still holds true about halfway in. You can read more about my reaction to this book here and you can check in on my interview with Tsh here.

The Long Haul – two or more days of driving (13+ hours)

8 - 11-22-6311/22/63 by Stephen King – 30 hours, 44 minutes

This monster of a book is the longest on this list, but it will make the miles fly by. 11/22/63 is a departure from King’s regular writing, with very minimal “horror” type scenes. A man discovers a portal to the past, which brings him to 1959, too late to stop the Holocaust, but perhaps early enough to stop the assassination of JFK.

5 Cutting for StoneCutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – 23 hours, 59 minutes

This sweeping novel spans generations and continents. It is written and narrated beautifully and really brings the country of Ethiopia to life for the reader. Twins, medicine, family, civil war, immigration. There is something wonderful about a writer who can address all of these subjects without his book coming off as an overblown windbag. Verghese does it.

9 Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline – 15 hours, 46 minutes

Wil Wheaton narrates the audio for this, which might not seem like it’s up your alley but probably is. This futuristic sci-fi novel is a trip through all the fun of 80s nostalgia, intermingled with the technology takeover that we all know is in the future!

09-lilac-girlsLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly – 17 hours, 30 minutes

Three different narrators tell the stories of Caroline, Kasia and Hetta, three women during WWII. Caroline is an American socialite. Kasia is a Polish teenager. And Hetta is a German doctor. This story will stick with you long after you finish listening.

02-small-great-thingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult – 16 hours, 15 minutes

The newest novel from Jodi Picoult is so timely. It centers on a hospital case, in which a white supremicist requests that a black nurse not be allowed to care for his newborn son. The court case that follows is heart-wrenching and timely.

theft by findingTheft by Finding by David Sedaris – 13 hours, 52 minutes

I could listen to David Sedaris read the menu at McDonald’s and be happy. I’ve gotten to see him speak live three times already (going again in November). His dry delivery is always on point. This newest work is a collection of diary entries from his personal diaries between 1977 and 2002.