January Reads and February Book Goals

I did not make much of a dent in my to read pile last month. I’ve been reading less, and only finished five books this month. I feel like this month was full of OK books.

The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan. This was a cute book about three very different sisters coming home for Christmas. If you want a cute Christmas book this one works. I give this book two out of five stars.

The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill by Bradford M. Smith. This memoir is about a guy who loves the city who moves to a farm for love. It’s a nice story, but not interesting enough to be anything but a book to read to put yourself to sleep. I give this book two out of five stars.

Fresh Eggs And Dog Beds by Nick Albert. It seems I’ve moved on my from Christmas romance novel phase an into a men write about moving out of the city and into the country phase. This memoir is about a couple moving to Ireland from England to escape stress. It is filled with details I didn’t care to know. Over half of the book led up to them buying their house. I give this book two out of five stars.

My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper. This was a cute and funny celebrity memoir. It did not take much thought. I read this when I was in the midst of a cold, which seemed to be the perfect time for it. I give this book three out of five stars.

The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison. This is not a dirty book, it is a book about a book club that reads dirty books. It’s a cute and fun book. I liked seeing how the female friendships evolved from strangers to good friends in a matter of months. I give this book three out of five stars.

I have huge goals for reading this month. I am not going to make it through this stack.20190201_0951552990023884893422921.jpg

A note on A Gentleman in Moscow, as it has been in my pile for 4 months: I’m going to read this if it kills me. I’m halfway through it, but I’m currently paused to read the library books. I don’t know anyone who has read it that didn’t like it. It is very difficult to get in to, and I might be reading this one all year.

Have you read anything good lately? Is there anything in my stack you don’t think I should bother with?

December Reads and January Book Goals, Plus my top 10 reads in 2018

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating. John and I watched Dr. Who, read, and fell asleep early. It was wonderful.

Before I get to my usual monthly review of what I’ve read, I thought I would fill you in on my best reads in 2018. I read 86 books this year, 29 more than last year. I would like to tell you that is because I made more of an effort to read this year, but that would be a lie. I read more books this year because I went through a trashy romance novel phase. I’m not proud of this.

Despite my current love of trash, I have ready some really good respectable books. Of those, my top 10 (in no particular order) are:

  • The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
  • Me by Katherine Hepburn
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  • American Princess: The Many Lives of Allena Tew by Annejet van der Zijl
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
  • Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

In December I read 11 books. It was an odd month for my book selections.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. This book is about a stressed out middle-aged woman heading to a health resort to recuperate from being the victim of a scam that broke her heart and took her money. From that simple start the book adds a crazy guru, LSD, and a retreat experience that goes from weird to terrifying. Reading this book made me happy there are so many more Liane Moriarty books for me to read. I give this book four out of five stars.

Comfort & Joy by India Knight. This is a book about a woman in London that I couldn’t get myself to like, understand, or relate to. I don’t think I’m British enough for this book. Oh well. I give this book two out of five stars.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle. If you were ever a huge dork in high school you are probably familiar with Monty Python. This memoir is a fascinating look at comedy troop, with gobs of gossip about George Harrison and other major celebrities of the seventies. I could not get over how much he was sharing. I liked reading it, but he is feeling his mortality, which made the book occasionally dark.  I give this book three out of five stars.

Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Kristin Hannah is a national treasure. This book is exactly what I was looking for in a Christmas novel. It starts out as a normal Christmas romance, but there is a twist. I have this on my kindle, but I’m thinking about buying a real copy to pull out and read every year. I give this book four out of five stars.

Chemistry by Weike Wang. This book is like reading the transcribed thoughts of a woman having a mental breakdown and going through recovery…but funny. I liked this book, but it’s not for everyone. I know this because I gave it to my aunt to give to my cousin Claire to read (I think Claire would like it a lot). My aunt was confused and thought I wanted her to read it. She read it. She did not like it. It’s totally worth the confusion just to hear her talk about the book. Hopefully Claire eventually reads it and lets me share her review. I give this book three out of five stars.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. This book is about a child unaware of the atrocities around him, and his best friend, who is painfully aware of the atrocities around him. It is a sad and touching tale. I’m glad I read it, and thankful I don’t have to read it again. I give this book four out of five stars.

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman. This is a book by the guy who plays Ron Swanson on the office and the woman who plays Karen Walker on Will and Grace about their marriage. I’ve read Offerman’s other books and found them funny. This book was not my jam. That might be because I read the entire book in Karen Walker’s voice in my head. This is the book that made me vow never to fall victim to my library’s “New Memoir” selection ever again. **shakes fist at the Des Moines Public Library and their friendly staff with usually helpful recommendations** I give this book two out of five stars.

One Day in December by Josie Sliver. This book was hyped as a new Love Actually. Actually, I didn’t love it. Perhaps I went in with expectations so high no book would ever reach them? It was fine. I do like that it has drink recipes in the back. I give this book three out of five stars.

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny. This book lets you look into a marriage – the good, the bad, the funny. I don’t read many novels that are written from the male perspective. This novel was a fun change to the norm. I loved the voice of the protagonist. This book was funny and entertaining. I give this book four out of five stars.

Sweet Girl by Cristin Harber. This book was horrid. I read it for my book club. I can’t wait to drink wine and talk about how bad this book is. The ending was so implausible I wanted to write the author and provide feedback. This book does not deserve a star rating.

Arrogant Devil by R.S. Grey. This is one of those trashy romance novels I told you about. A woman leaves her abusive and incredibly rich husband and runs away to Texas where she starts working as a cleaning lady for the arrogant, incredibly handsome ranch owner. I bet you can guess what happens. It’s mindless and fun. I give this book two out of five stars.

This month I hope to do some serious reading. I’m going to finish A Gentleman in Moscow if it kills me. I skipped Book of the Month Club this month, so I’m hoping  to actually make a dent in this pile.

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What do you hope to read this year? Is there anything I should add to my list for the year? Are you hoping to read more this year?

November reads and December book goals

I read eight books in November. Of those book, only two are books that I would bring up in conversation when discussing books with a friend. The cold weather had me diving into themes: holiday romance novels, young adult books, and off the grid survivalist books (not how to guides).

A Lake House Holiday by Megan Squires. Have you ever accidentally read a Christian romance novel? I have. This was a predictable romance set in a picturesque lake town. It was not awful. I give this book two out of five stars. 

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Wow. This book is about a woman growing up in a survivalist Mormon home. Education is not respected. At 17 she gets herself into college and her life changes. This book is really good. Tara Westover is one tough cookie. Her parents are awful. I give this book four out of five stars.

Harris and Me by Gary Paulson. Maybe you are asking yourself “did she really read a book by the same guy that wrote Hatchet, the book I loved in elementary school?” The answer to that question is yes. This book for young adults is about post WWII farm life through the eyes of a foster boy. I really enjoyed this book because it was easy to picture my uncles doing the crazy things the boys in the book did. I give this book three out of five stars. 

Snowflakes & Mistletoe at Inglenook Inn by Helen J. Rolfe. This book was supposed to be a mindless read. It lost me when a character suggested that a girl in the book might not want Legos for a Christmas present because there comes a time in every girls life where she loves makeup. The kid in question was in elementary school. I would have thrown the book across the room had it not been on my Kindle. Let kids be kids. Also, there are plenty of people who don’t give a big fat monkey butt about makeup (my swearing has gotten weird since kids). I get that when you read a romance novel there will be sexist drivel, but that was so ridiculous I only finished the book out of spite. I give this book one out of five stars.  

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. This isn’t my genre. It was fine. It’s a thriller about a terrorist attack and a president trying to save the country. I give it three out of five stars. 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. This novel is about a family that moves to Alaska to homestead in the 1970s. The father, a former POW in Vietnam, is not a nice man. This book is heartbreaking, but also a wonderful read. I give this book four out of five stars. 

Hindsight and All The Things I Can’t See in Front of Me by Justin Timberlake. This book is written for the broken attention spans of a smart phone addicted world. It is mostly pictures. This book has the depth of a People article, is the length of an Atlantic article, and tells you nothing. It is a great book to read if you have two hours to kill and you want to read an entire book. I give the book one out of five stars.

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. This novel, about a 12-year-old girl in foster care, was more emotional than I expected from a young adult novel. My heart broke for Carley, the girl taken away from her mother after being beaten by her step-father. I liked reading about Carley building a relationship with her foster family. I give this book three out of five stars. 

In December I hope to read more books of substance. My to read pile continues to grow. I hope to get through these books this month: 

I reserve the right to stop reading Crazy Rich Asians before I finish it. Two readers I trust have said it is not well written. I’m going to give it a shot, only because I loved the movie so much. 

What did you read last month? Have you read anything I should add to my list? 

October Reads and November Book Goals

I spent a lot of October resisting social activities so I could spend more time reading. It was worth it. I finished 10 books in October, many of which were excellent.

Dying Up Loose Ends by Maggie Sefton. I started this knitting murder mystery series over 10 years ago. I’ve read all 16 books, and if she writes more I’m sure I’ll read them. That being said – good lord this is a TERRIBLE BOOK. It is not written well. At all. The only reason to read this book is because you have read 15 other books in the series and want to see if the writing will get even worse. I give this book 0 out of 5 stars.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. This book had been on my to read list for a long time. I’m glad I finally took the time to read it because it is excellent. It is a true story of a series of murders of Osage Indians in Oklahoma. It reads like a novel…a very sad novel. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister. This is the sequel to the School of Essential Ingredients. Like the first book, each chapter tells the story of a different character. All of the characters are connected to the same restaurant.  I enjoyed the book, just not as much as I liked the first book. If you are in the mood for something light, this is not a bad choice. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

How to Break up With Your Phone by Catherine Price. This book changed my relationship with my phone. It also helped me become a better mom, friend, and wife. If you have a smart phone you should read this book. I cannot recommend this book, and the meaningful changes that come from following the program, enough. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne. This is a damn good book (Susan, you really need to read this one). This is the kind of book that makes you angry if you have to do something other than read it.  I read the last 300 pages in a day because I was leaving town the next day and I knew I would resent talking to my friends if I hadn’t finished it. This book is about a gay man growing up in post World War II Ireland. It follows him from the 1940s to today. It is incredibly beautiful in its sadness. I give this book 6 out of 5 stars. It’s my blog, I can break the rating system if I want.

Winter In Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand. This book doesn’t take much thinking, but it is fun. It’s about a woman who discovers after her husband’s death that their marriage wasn’t perfect. Most of the book takes place in St. John’s, so I spent a lot of the book daydreaming about going on a beach vacation. It is the first book in a trilogy, and I’ll be reading the next two books. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot By the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai. Malala is an incredible woman. That being said, maybe 15 year olds should limit their memoirs to about 150 pages. She has lived a lot, but not enough to make over 300 pages interesting. I probably would have been better off with the young readers version. I give this book 2 out of 5 stars.

It Takes Two: Our Story by Jonathan and Drew Scott. This book was fine. I like the Scott brothers. I can’t believe I picked this up at the library. I am embarrassed to admit that I read it. I give this book 2 out of 5 stars.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks. This book had such an interesting premise – it is written from the perspective of an autistic child’s imaginary friend. It was a good story, about a child in a dangerous situation. The ending was so intense I couldn’t wind down to fall asleep for hours after finishing this one. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Christmas at the Little Knitting Box by Helen Rolfe. A Christmas romance book set in a knitting store. It is exactly what you would expect. I will probably be reading a lot of these as we head in to the Christmas season. I give this book 2 out of 5 stars.

My book shelf for November is dense. In addition to what is pictured I’ll probably read a few Christmas novels on my kindle.20181102_1158184319474307920189573.jpg

What did you read last month? Is there anything I should add to my pile?

September Reads and October Book Goals

I read seven books in September. They ranged from horrible to excellent. I hope October doesn’t have as many stinkers in it.

The Summer Games by RS Grey. This book is not good. Don’t read it. I give it 0 out of 5 stars.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. This book is about Family, country, culture, jihad, and loyalty. It was a fascinating read. I highly recommend checking this book out. If you read it, let me know what you think of the ending (I thought it was perfect). I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman. This book has all of the darkness of the other Backman novels I have read, without any of the light. It was depressing. Incredibly depressing. It felt like reading a bleak January day. I give this book 2 out of 5 stars.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry. This book was about as deep as you would expect it to be. After reading Home Fire and Beartown it was perfect. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, which I was not expecting. It was cute and did not require much thought. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Today Will be Different by Maris Semple. Maris Semple wrote Where’d You Go Bernadette. This book is interesting, but not nearly as good as Where’d You Go  Bernadette. It’s fine, but don’t bother. I don’t even remember enough to write a good description. I give it 2 out of 5 stars.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Wow. This was a good book. It’s about a screen legend and her five decade long career. It’s a novel that is written so well I found myself wanting to look up photos from the events that were described only to remember that it was fiction. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

PS From Paris by Marc Levy. This book could have been a fun, predictable read. It was not. It managed to be rather dull. I give it 2 out of 5 stars.

In October I have lofty reading goals. I have two new books coming from Book of the Month Club that will be added to the stack. My guess is Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend will also be in my to read stack next month.20181001_2128032161792347868377888.jpgWhat are you reading this month?

July Reads and August Book Goals

I read seven books last month. It was not a month full of books I think you should run out and get.

A Beautiful Work in Progress by Mirna Valerio. This book is by the woman behind the blog Fat Girl Running. I loved her blog. I did not love the book. It felt disjointed and awkward. I give it two stars out of five.

Blind Your Ponies by Stanley Gordon West. This book did the unthinkable: it had me rooting for a fictional high school basketball team. I loved every character in this book. I want there to be a TV show about this town, or several more books about the characters. I loved this one. I give it five out of five stars.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. I had heard remarkable things about this book, so I was excited to pick it up. I was drawn into it and couldn’t put it down. I finished it in one day. That being said, I have no idea how I actually feel about this book. I can’t get my head around it. I give it three out of five stars.

Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven. Life advice from a Navy Seal. This book is full of good advice. None of it is rocket science. It would be a good gift for any graduate in your life. I give it three out of five stars.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan. Like Sing, Unburied, Sing, I had high hopes for this book from the author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Perhaps my high hopes are what kept me from loving this novel about a robotics programmer turned bread baker. I thought the book was fine. It did get me thinking about making sourdough again, but other than that it left me uninspired. I give it two out of five stars.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M Draper. This is a Young Adult novel about a girl with severe Cerebral Palsy. I usually like reading YA novels, but I felt too old to be reading this one. I think I would have loved this book if I had read it in Jr. High. I give this one two out of five stars.

In The Footsteps of Sheep: Tales of a Journey Through Scotland, Walking, Spinning, and Knitting Socks by Debbie Zawinski. Well, thanks a lot, Debbie, now I want to walk and camp across Scotland meeting sheep and knitting.  I give this book four out of five stars.

This month I have a big stack of books to get through. Not pictured are the two books I ordered from Book of the Month Club this month.20180802_1244303648055488055510932.jpg

What are you reading this month? Do you have any good book suggestions?