July Reads and August Book Goals

Have you been reading much this summer? I have been reading a little less than normal. We have been spending about four hours outside each day and it really wears me out. My reading time has turned into need an extra hour of sleep time.

Despite my increased need for shut eye, I finished six books this month. I feel like I’m finally making a dent in my Book of the Month Club pile (although I just ordered two books this month, so the stack of books continues to grow). I read a variety of books this month, hopefully one of them will sound good to you.

Prognosis: A Memoir of my Brain by Sarah Vallance. This book is about a woman’s traumatic brain injury and her life after being told she would never hold a job again. She does what she can to help her brain heal, and she eventually earns a PhD. The human brain is remarkable, and this book was an engaging and interesting read. I give this book three out of five stars.

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas. You are probably familiar with Angie Thomas’ first book, The Hate U Give. I love The Hate U Give and put off starting this book because I didn’t think it would live up to it. I should have read it as soon as I got it, because I loved it. I liked it better than The Hate U Give. It is about a gifted high school student who is also a talented rapper. She deals with poverty and gang violence. It is heartwarming and heart wrenching in the best ways. I give this book four out of five stars.

The Boy Between Worlds by Annejet Van Der Zijl. This biography sounds more like a soap opera than nonfiction. In 1928 a Dutch woman and a Surinamese man who fall in love despite their circumstances. She is a married mother of four. He is an immigrant 18 years her junior. The have a son together and create a perfect world for him as they run a guest house in a beach town in Holland. When World War II starts they use the guest house to hide Jews from the Nazis. They are discovered and sent to concentration camps. The son is sent to live with relatives and his perfect world is shattered. I don’t know how Annejet Van Der Zijl makes her books read like fiction (she also wrote An American Princess, which I loved), but she does, and I’m thankful for it. I give this book three out of four stars.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harmes. This book is about a single mom whose ex-husband is suddenly back in the picture. She spends the summer in New York rediscovering herself. Her friends call it a Momspringa (like a Rumspringa where Amish youth explore the world to make sure they want to remain Amish). This is the kind of book I want to read in the summer. It was light and funny. It is a good reminder that everyone needs self care and me time. I give this book three out of five stars.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center. In Center’s latest novel a tough firefighter moves to Massachusetts to help her mom with an illness. She’s a lone wolf who doesn’t need anything and is not close with her mother, but along comes a rookie at her new post and her feelings start to change. What I love best about Katherine Center books is there is no twist, there will be nothing shockingly upsetting, there will be a good ending. This is a great summer read. I give this book four out of five stars.

Normal People by Sally Rooney. Nope. Too dark. Too hopeless. Book of the Month Club really let me down with this one. If you would like to read it and tell me what I’m missing I’ll happily mail this book to you. I want it out of my house. I give this book one out of five stars.

I’ve also been craving light novels, and my July to read pile reflects that. I keep pushing John Boyne’s latest novel further down the stack, as I’m not up for a deep novel at the moment. I’m all about frivolous romance and personal essays for now. Once fall gets her I will probably get serious again, but for now I’ll stick to fluff reading.

What is your favorite mindless read?

May Reads and June Book Goals

Oh May, what a weird month for reading. I read two romance novels about NFL girlfriends and two novels about characters from The Odyssey. So, yeah, a weird mix. Luckily, I really enjoyed most of the seven books I read.

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton. This book follows one of the characters from Next Year In Havana as she adapts to life in the United States. Along the way she joins the CIA. It is a fun book about a difficult time. I give this book four out of five stars.

Intercepted by Alexa Martin. This book was cute and fun, without being totally mindless. Alexa Martin is the wife of an ex-NFL player, so the book has details about being a player I would not have known without her insight. She writes about a believable independent woman. I really enjoyed this book. I give it three out of five stars.

Fumbled by Alexa Martin. This woman can write a good book. A romance novel that tackles CTE? I never would have thought that brain injuries would be a plot point in a romance novel, but she makes it work. This book is cute and fun to read. I pre-ordered her third book after reading this one. If you like football and romance novels you should check her out. I give this book three out of five stars.

Circe by Madeline Miller. If you remember the Odyssey well you might remember the witch that turned men into pigs. This is a book about her. It is creative, entertaining, and incredibly imaginative. This is the kind of book where when it is described you think you would never want to read it and then you read it and you love it. I give this book four out of five stars.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang. I loved The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang’s first book. This book was fine. It was cute enough, but I didn’t love it. I give it two out of five stars.

Zoo Nebraska by Carson Vaughan. This is the fascinating true store of chimpanzees at a very small zoo in rural Nebraska. The zoo is close to failure its entire existence. One day the chimpanzees get out and there is no plan in place to contain them. I wish there was a way to make this book sound as interesting as it is. I give it four out of five stars.

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. This is a novel about Achilles and his lover. It was interesting, but I just don’t care about these characters the same way I did about Circe. I give this book three out of five stars.

My June pile is out of control, as two library books I requested just came in. My aunt just recommended In Order To Live very highly, so I’m looking forward to trying it. I’m at the point where I need to look at what I really want to read and get rid of the books I only kind of want to read.

Do you read more or less in the summer?

March Reads and April Book Goals

Welcome to April! I think we’re going to like this month. I spent March getting a lot of mindless reading done. Some of what I read was excellent. Some of what I read was trashy romance novels. I enjoyed almost all of it, and can’t wait to tell you about it.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone. This book is a great example of why it pays to have a friend that teaches high school. I never would have picked this up without her recommendation. It’s a young adult novel that tackles issues of racial injustice in 200 easy to read pages. I think this book should be required reading for high school students. You should read this book. I give this book five out of five stars.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. I picked up this book because it was a 2018 Book of the Month Club book of the year nominee. This book is about an executive with Asperger Syndrome in Silicon Valley who hires a male escort to teach her how to date. It is cute, sexy, and fun. This book was more graphic than I was expecting, so I won’t be lending it to any family members, but I would highly recommend they pick this book at the library. I give this book four out of five stars.

The Foxe and the Hound,  Hot Shot Doc and A Place in the Sun by RS Gray. These books are basically Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movies in book form. You know how they are going to end, but that’s OK. When I need my mind to shut off I reach for one of these. They are totally interchangeable and do not warrant individual reviews. I give these books three out of five stars.

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne. I picked this book up at the library because I enjoyed Thorne’s previous book, The Hating Game. 99 Percent Mine was long and boring. The characters were so flawed they were unlikable. I would not bother with this book. I give this book two out of five stars.

The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater by Alanna Okun. This book was so bad I didn’t finish it. I suppose I shouldn’t have it in my list of finished books, but because many of you craft and knit, I feel compelled to tell you to avoid this book of essays on crafting. It was awful. Only read this if you need to punish yourself.

41 Reasons I’m Staying In: A Celebration of Introverts by Hallie Heald. This book is filled with illustrated reasons to stay home. It was basically my life in drawings. I give this book three out of five stars.

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield. I had no idea how much I had missed excellent storytelling until I picked this book up. The story is hard to describe – it’s about a the body of a child found in the river. She comes back to life. Three families think it is their child. The lives of the people in this story are woven together in a masterful tapestry. I give this book four out of five stars.

This month I’m hoping to get to the stack of books that has been on my nightstand for months. I have two library books checked out that I’ve been waiting for, so I need to read those first. This is the third time I’ve checked out This Is How It Always Is, I’m actually reading it (and enjoying it) this time. 20190401_1252435218845477273918130.jpgWhat have you been reading? Do you have any suggestions?

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?

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?