A Cuppa Cosy Reads – August 2020

August has ended and with it, Summer has gone (that’s a whole separate post though). August has always seemed to be a hit or miss reading month. Much like July, we usually have some family thing going on, then school prep (this year at least), and just an overall sense of those “lazy summer days”. I usually blow all of my reading plans out of the water, or fall somewhere in the low end of reading. This year I seemed to blow all my reading plans out of the water. I read a total of 11 books (10 physical, 1 audio), and gave an average rating of 3.8. What a good reading month! 

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley (PURCHASE) 3.5/5 Stars: If you are looking for a classic Agatha Christie “Whodunnit” style mystery with quite a bit of atmosphere and a fast pace, read in a day writing style, then Lucy Foley is a good place to look. In The Hunting Party we follow a group of friends as they ring in the New Year in a resort in an isolated part of the Scottish Highlands. 7 friends check in, but only 6 check out. Overall, I very much enjoyed this mystery, the atmosphere was fantastic, the book kept your attention from start to finish and was very fast paced. My only real problem with this book is there is a bit of a side mystery that comes into the storyline towards the end that was unnecessary. 

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (PURCHASE) 4/5 Stars: I think Madeline Miller is going to become a new auto read author because man…can she write. The Song of Achilles is from the Greek Mythology of Achilles and Patroclus. Similar to Circe, you don’t need to know anything about Greek Mythology to enjoy this book and the beautiful story. I smiled, cried, got angry, and just experienced all the feelings that this book brought on. This is just a “young adult” (but not entirely) Greek tragedy we didn’t know we needed. 

Celebrations by Maya Angelou (PURCHASE) NR: This is a collection of Maya Angelou’s poetry that is placed in sections for different “intentions”. I read a section each morning as I started my day and I found it to be such a beautiful way to start the day. 

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan (PURCHASE) 4/5 Stars: Ah, a royal fan novel, this was the perfect lighthearted story that I needed after the tragedy of Achilles, and the chill of The Hunting Party. In The Royal We we follow Rebecca Porter as she heads to England for what will turn out to be a life changing adventure. Loosely following William and Kate’s love story, this was a fun read that quickly wrapped me up in our characters emotions and stories. It’s not the next piece of incredible literature, but it was fun. 

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (PURCHASE) 4/5 Stars: I honestly just adore everything that Chimamanda writes. This is a collection of short stories and every single one held something special in it. Honestly, I just love her writing, I love how she handles important topics, and the way that things are presented in her stories. I am looking forward to reading more of her work. 

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City) by Sarah J. Maas (PURCHASE) 3.5-4/5 Stars: Ah, Sarah J Maas…you either love her books or you love to hate her books, and this is most definitely the case for her most recent release. In House of Earth and Blood we are following two unlikely hero’s (and a third just as important characters) who are trying to solve a mystery. I’m not going to give you much more than that because honestly, there isn’t much more to give that wouldn’t ruin the reading experience. I think it’s important to have your expectations set at, what I refer to as, “SJM expectations”: you aren’t going to get anything amazing, but a fun…ride. And that’s exactly what this book was, a fun ride.  

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan (PURCHASE) 3/5 Stars: This was the sequel to The Royal We, and while I gave it a 3-star rating, I don’t know that it needed to really exist…? In this second book we pick up directly following the first and watch as our characters battle new issues in just about every sense. While I enjoyed seeing our characters again and I do like that they talked about certain topics that are incredibly important (mental health and infertility), it just didn’t have the same feel as the first book. So, if you felt like The Royal We filled your royal need, then you don’t need to read this one. 

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall (PURCHASE) NR: This is a collection of essays that talks about various issues plaguing our world today and how they relate to feminism. It calls out feminism as a whole and shows how a multitude of problems that exist (gun violence, hunger, poverty, education) relate directly to feminism and the fight for equality. This was a good, interesting read that contained some good nuggets. I found that the essays had me thinking about some issues and correlations that I hadn’t necessarily seen and had me nodding along at others. 

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (PURCHASE) 4/5: One of my closest friends picked up a first translated edition of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s first published book (EVER) and I about died. I immediately picked it up and read it in two days. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is my favorite author and this book was special. This is a middle grade novel set in Spain leading up to World War 2. A family moves from the city to the beach and sets events into motion that will change their lives. Even though this is intended for younger audiences, I still didn’t see the twist coming (although that could have been because I was just loving the writing and storytelling) and the overall story was just charming to any age. 

Stalling For Time by Gary Noesner (PURCHASE) NR: This is an FBI Negotiator’s memoir of his time in the FBI. Gary Noesner was part of the introduction of negotiating as an active choice in crisis situations. He was part of the Ruby Ridge incident, the Waco disaster, and the DC Sniper, and gives the history, incident, and both the positives and the negatives across the board. I found his insights to be very interesting and overall a good read. (I listened to the audio book, which Noesner narrates).

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (PURCHASE) 4/5: I finished this book a few days ago and I still just don’t know what to make of it. That’s the honest truth. I don’t even know how to describe it, what to say about it, really anything about it. Obviously, I enjoyed it, I just don’t really know how to talk about it (which seems to be pretty common?). I think if you want something unnerving, almost dream like in a way, but quick to read, this is the book for you. 

I’ll say it again, what a reading month! I’ve highly enjoyed just about everything I’ve read, and it’s definitely set a very high bar for September. Any of the above catch your eye? What was your favorite read of August?

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – July 2020

Somehow it is already the end of July. I have no idea where this month has gone (ok, ok- I do), but here we are. I didn’t expect to read as much as I actually did, but I managed to read a total of 8 books (7 physical and 1 audio). I enjoyed most of the books that I did read and gave out an average rating of 3.8. Short introductions aside, let’s get into what I actually did read. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Purchase) 4/5 Stars This is NOT the book to read if you are worried about the pandemic, but it is worth it to read at some point. In Station Eleven we follow a cast of characters in a Shakespeare (and classical orchestra) troupe as the world has succumbed to a surprise flu pandemic. Following a current and pre pandemic timeline we unravel the story of what happened and how the world has changed. I really loved this book and greatly enjoyed reading it, even if it was a bit surreal at times given the current state of things. Would definitely recommend adding to your list. 

The Book Shop by Penelope Fitzgerald (Purchase) 3/5 Stars I don’t really know how to wrap my thoughts up on this shorter story. In The Bookshop we follow a young women who attempts to open up a bookshop in a town that quite decidedly doesn’t want one. It’s a story of a woman fighting against “the institution” of those above her in both society and politics to try and follow her passion. Overall, I found this to be OK. It’s incredibly melancholic from the setting to the characters, everything feels a bit depressing. With that being said, it’s a quick read as it’s so short, so you won’t be feeling dejected for too long. 

Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr (this was part of a collection of two of his essays) NR I’ve been wanting to read some of MLK Jr’s words for myself (rather than relying on the twisting snippets that are being doled out) to continue on my own personal learning. In this small Penguin Modern Classics, we get two of his works, the first being his Letter from Birmingham Jail and the second being The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life. I don’t think I have to say much about this, but just that it was incredible to actual read his words in the context they were originally in. I’ve heard so many quotes pulled from Birmingham Jail, that his Complete Life speech was a little bit more incredible to read. You can hear King speaking in your mind as you read his words and his eloquence was unparalleled. 

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus (Purchase) 3/5 Stars After the “seriousness” of the first few books I picked up, I really craved something light. Something I didn’t have to focus too hard on, that was almost juvenile in its nature, and that didn’t have any deeper meaning buried under the base text. Enter One of Us is Lying. I’ll put this book like this (and then move on) – if you are looking for (or enjoyed the show) Pretty Little Liars, but without being dragged out beyond needing with extra outlandish twists, then this is the book for you. You’ll get all your answers in a quick 300 or so pages and then you can move on! I loved Pretty Little Liars (overall- obviously I had issues here and there) and this story is a {very} similar premise. 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Purchase) NR Another book that has been highly recommended and on my to read list for a while this is a nonfiction, almost autobiographical letter from a father to a son. Coates touches on his childhood and reasons as to why/how he grew up the way he did, as well as how he shifted his own parenting. He touches on the current state of affairs, what racism looks like today, as well as micro aggressions and things that he has experienced being a black man today. The first part of his section was hard to read, but I found this book, as a whole, one of those enlightening books that changes your perspective. There were little things that I knew, but didn’t know and things that got my brain going and led me to explore some other areas. Overall, I highly recommend reading this one. 

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (Purchase) 5/5 Stars I didn’t know entirely what to expect with this concluding novel, but man it exceeded whatever those unsure expectation were. This explosive third book left me devoid of words and emotions in the best way possible. I didn’t realize that I would become so ensnared in the world and with the characters, but I LOVED this trilogy. I can’t wait to continue reading more of Sanderson’s work. 

A Place Called Waco: A Survivor’s Story by David Thibodeau (Purchase) NR As I’m writing this up, I am still currently listening to this, though I will be done when this post goes up, and it’s an interesting listen. We watched the Waco “docu-series” that came out and it just really had me intrigued to hear directly from the people who were there. What happened? What led to this federal siege of a compound? What was going through each sides mind as the situation rapidly derailed and then ended tragically? Obviously, this is just David Thibodeau’s side of the story (this was what my library had available first), but I will also be hearing the hostage negotiators side as well. It’s been interesting to listen to.  

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell (Purchase) 4/5 Stars So…I read this book in a day and you totally could do. The Family Upstairs follows a young lady who has recently found out that she has inherited a house and all of the history that comes with it. In this she discovers the tragic events that occurred and the real nature of who she is and her own history. If you are wanting a domestic thriller that is easy holiday reading, this is the book for you. 

And finally, I am currently reading Maya Angelou’s poetry collection, Celebrations (purchase). I’ve been making my way through these starting with reading one first thing in the morning and it’s been such a beautiful way to start the way. Maya Angelou just resonates this almost post inner turmoil peace in these poems and it’s just been a truly calming read. 

Those are the books that I’ve read in July- quite an interesting collection I will say. I’ve got quite the stack picked for August, although lately it seems like my mood (and my mental state) seems to be dictating a lot more of my reads than anything else. What was your favorite book that you read in July? Have any of the ones that I’ve read stood out to you? 

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – May 2020

Happy first of June! May was…a month both in real life and in book world. I had a wishy-washy month and dealt with some book breaks towards the end of the month. I’ll get more into that later, but I completed a total of 7 books, with an average rating of 3.8/5.0 and I’m currently in the middle of two right now. I’ve actually waited until the very last minute to write this post up as I had hoped I would finish one of them before this had to go up.

I’ve included a slightly different purchase link this time around. This link will take you to the bookshop.org listing for each book. Bookshop.org raises money for local independent bookstores and while the prices may be slightly higher than Amazon, if you are in a position to pay the slightly higher price, I would highly encourage you to do so.

A Cuppa Cosy Reads - February 2022

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas 4/5 (Goodreads/Purchase): I started my month out with a bang of a horror novel. In Kill Creek we are following an author who is in the middle of a bit of a life and writing crisis. He isn’t getting very far into his new novel and has taken up teaching to do something different. He, along with 3 other authors, gets the opportunity to spend a night in the most famous haunted house in the country. What goes on is for the books. I loved the overall theme that this book took in terms of the standard haunted house trope. It definitely brought a new life into a very tried trope.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman 3.5/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) This was my second Neil Gaiman and I infinitely preferred this one. Coraline follows a young girl who finds a mysterious door in her home. She wanders through the door and finds her family, but not quite her family. Written for his daughters, this store is the cutest story of good vs “evil”. It’s juvenile in a way, but enjoyable for a reader of any age.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams 3/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) The one book that I have so much, but so little to say about. Queenie follows a young black women on the brink of a breakdown. She seems to be falling apart at the pieces and we follow her journey of self. I think my biggest problem with this book was the marketing of it. At the outset it was heralded as almost the “black Bridget Jones” and it is NOT. This book is much darker, much heavier on the content, much more “real world” than Bridget Jones. The wit/humor of Bridget Jones, maybe, but beyond that there is no comparison. Now, this is changing as more people are reading it and talking about it, but I would recommend checking content warnings prior to picking it up. I will say- this does has some book race and social commentary in it.

Murder in the Locked Library by Ellery Adams 4.5/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) I think Ellery Adams is just my new go to when I need a cozy, warm, book related mystery. Murder in the Locked Library is actually the 4th book in a series, so I can’t talk too much about the contents, but I enjoyed it so much. This has books, secret societies, and quaint Virginia town vibes. I plan on reading the first three books in the coming month and I can’t wait!

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson 4.5/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) Ah, the book of all books. The book that completely ruined the rest of my May. The book that I finished and needed more of. The Final Empire (aka Mistborn #1) follows along in a world where the people are ruled by a figure considered a g-d. A “ragtag” band is determined to get the skaa (the working slave class in this world) to rise into a rebellion and overthrow the government and the ruler. There is magic, comradery, and a new world to explore. I absolutely loved this book. As with any fantasy it’s a fit of a slow burn at first due to the world building that needs to happen, but it never felt boring/slow. There is a subtle shift about a third of the way through the book where the reader goes from being a passive learner to an active participant and then it is actively engaging right till the very end. I finished this book needing more and that desire definitely colored the rest of my reading month (I only just ordered the rest of the books in the series).

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson 3/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) This was a bit of a letdown for me. In Eight Perfect Murders we follow a bookstore owner as he learns that a list he posted many years ago has become inspiration for a serial killer. What follows is a literary mystery. Now, I loved the setting and concept of this story. Where I found it lacking/disappointing, was in the actual mystery/thriller aspect of it. I found that portion to be predictable and lackluster.

American Royals by Katharine McGee 4/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) This isn’t the next award-winning book, but it’s good fun, nonetheless. In American Royals we follow an alternate history of the US where George Washington decided to become king when asked and what that ends up looking like in with the modern-day royal family. Basically, this is British Royal Family fanfiction set in America and it’s lighthearted melodrama fun. Suspend all your thoughts and beliefs and just enjoy the ride.

Now, I mentioned earlier that I am currently in the middle of two books, which I will share a bit about now…

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett (Goodreads/Purchase): I’m really enjoying this one so far! I’m halfway through and while it is different in quite a few ways from the previous two books, I’m really enjoying getting a different view into this time period (Elizabethan England). Once again, I love his storytelling and the way he weaves these epic family tales.

Locke & Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft (Goodreads/Purchase) I don’t really know how I feel about this. I had placed it on hold from the library a while ago and then quarantine happened and I forgot about it. I’m not a fan, but not not enjoying it. Does that even make sense?

My reading plans for the next couple months include a bit of literary fiction, the next book in the Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson) series, some black history, and a few more Ellery Adams cozy mysteries. Reading for me serves a purpose: escapism/pleasure or education. I am trying to be more cognizant about doing both.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts? What was your favorite read from May?

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – March 2020

Happy April! Feels like the past couple weeks have lasted a while, haven’t they? In an effort to start getting back a semblance of “normalcy” I am getting back to some normal posts. That means today I am going to talk about all the books that I finished, and didn’t finish, in the month of March.

In the month of March, I read a total of 9 books (I’m counting the two that I will be finishing when I am writing this as I know they will be finished before the end of the month- more on that later) and gave an average of 3.8 rating. On the whole I enjoyed most of what I read, with a very obvious divide between what I liked and what I didn’t like. So, what did I read?

A Cuppa Cosy Reads - February 2020
Photo by Angie at A Cup of Grace Photography

Full Metal Alchemist Vol. 1 by Hiromu Arakawa (Goodreads/Amazon): NR. This is a manga about alchemy. I don’t read many manga’s (I’ve only actually read 2 before this one) and I don’t really know how to talk about them or rate them. This one was ok, although not a favorite and I won’t be continuing on.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (Goodreads/Amazon): 4/5 Stars. I am finally started to delve into the world of Brandon Sanderson. This particular book is a standalone following 3 main characters navigating court politics, religious politics, and new lives in new worlds. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the world that Sanderson crafted in this one book. He is masterful at creating a world and deep diving into every aspect of that world, characters, and story. HOWEVER, this means that at times the story slowed down and became a bit tedious in parts and for that I knocked a star off my rating. I still enjoyed it overall and am looking forward to reading more of his books.

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (Goodreads/Amazon): 4/5 Stars. This was a book lent to me by a friend who thought I would enjoy it. We are following a magician who has just graduated school and is learning her craft. She is given a magic that she didn’t want, with a teacher she didn’t understand, but all is not what it seems, and she quickly realizes that there is more than meets the eye. This is the perfect fluff book that gives you a little bit of everything. A little bit of light romance, a little bit of the steam punk era, a little bit of magic and fantasy, without diving too deep into any of them. This is the first book of, what I think is, a trilogy and it can honestly be read as either a standalone or part of a trilogy.

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell (Goodreads/Amazon): NR This was a book club book pick for March and is a diary entry collection from a bookshop owner. We follow along as he experiences life in his shop over the course of a little under a year. I will start with that I listened to this book as an audio book. It is nonfiction, the bookstore exists, and his witty comebacks and commentary on his various experiences made the book a joy to listen to. He included tidbits on his daily register totals, customer totals, and online orders which made a nice addition.

Misery by Stephen King (Goodreads/Amazon): 2/5. I have never been more disappointed with a Stephen King book, nor have I ever rated a Stephen King book this low. In Misery we follow a mildly famous writer who has been kidnapped by his “#1 Fan” and is drugged and forced to write a new book just for her. Sound familiar? Predictable? Boring? This book was all three. I felt like it was just a formulaic, mindless, story that followed a standard horror kidnapping storyline. There was not heart stopping action, no thrilling aspect, until the last 5 pages (AFTER everything else has been exhausted). It was not what I was wanting nor was expecting and I don’t know if I would recommend this one.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson (Goodreads/Amazon): NR. This was…an interesting read. We are following Jon as he is trying to figure out how the mental health industry, specifically relating to psychopathy, handles diagnoses and how it relates to criminals and people in power. In a way this book was kind of similar to watching a Netflix or Vice docuseries where you follow a variety of different minor topics that circle round to each other and showcase information about a subject. I don’t really know that I liked it, but I didn’t like it. It was a strange one.

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story by Debbie Tung (Goodreads/Amazon): 5/5 I feel so seen in this comic series by Debbie Tung. I don’t have much to say about it (as it’s pretty self-explanatory), but in an almost 200-page series of comics, Debbie Tung details what it feels like to be introverted, to be teased for it, to feel isolated, to feel exhausted, and much more. There was so much about this that I understood and related to and I think that everyone who either is friends with/in  a relationship with an introvert OR is an introvert should read it.

And now, a bit on the two books I am currently reading. I write these wrap up posts a day before they are scheduled to go up and so sometimes, I might not be finished with a book, but will be finished with it before the next day. This is the case with the below two books, so I want to include them as I know they will be finished in March and can therefore be included on this wrap up. I may come back on here and edit this post day of to include final ratings.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (Goodreads/Amazon): NR. This was my other nonfiction audio book for the month, and I found it interesting. Mary talks about dead bodies, in the simplest explanation. When/If we donate our bodies to science, what actually happens? She talks about this and the various medical discovers that have been made with science and it’s use of both human and animal cadavers. It’s interesting in its own way and I did enjoy the audio book.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (Goodreads/Amazon): 3/5 Hmmm, this was my “interesting” read. In The Hazel Wood we follow the descendent of an author famous for her dark fairy tales, but, as with fairytales, all is not what it seems. As things start rapidly changing, Alice finds herself facing a world, a life, a story that she never expected. Overall I enjoyed this book, the premise was great (I love dark fairytales), but I also expected…more out of the latter third of the book. I felt like the ending fell a bit…not in keeping with the rest of the story and a bit too tidy for my liking. There is another book out and I’m debating whether or not I want to pick it up or not.

And those are all the books I read in March! I have ambitious goals for April as I am taking part in the O.W.L.S Magical Readathon (because I am THAT kind of Harry Potter fan) and have picked out quite a few books for it. What books have you been reading lately? Any new favorites?