A Cuppa Cosy Reads – January 2020

Welcome to my library. My domain. My happy place. In my library I’m in my element. Let’s talk books…

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Photo taken by Angie at A Cup of Grace Photography

I said that something I wanted to introduce a little more regularly on my little slice of the internet was books. I’m an avid reader and while I have an entire blog dedicated to books, I felt like that having such a big part of my life be so separate from my personal blog, was…strange to me. I’ve been sharing my reads as I am reading them on my social media, but I think I am also going to wrap up each month with a little post talking about what I’ve read that month. I’ll have the title, links to goodreads/purchasing options, my rating of the book, and then my thoughts of the book. (If you are curious about my library/office, you can see that post HERE).

In January I read a total of 7 books and listened to 1 audio book. Overall it was what I would consider a really good reading month, the lowest rating I gave out was a low 3 star and on the whole I actually enjoyed most of the books that I read. This month was the month of Dark, Thrilling, In One Sitting reads. I have added a new favorite genre (I’ve always loved it, but I have a name for it now and a narrowed down taste) and I’ve added an author to my “try some more” list. And now, I’m going to stop aimlessly waffling and start talking about the books…

*** I apologize for the Purchase links going to Amazon Audible options, you can select the physical or e-book version using the same link. I will have a different link moving forward***

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Desire by Haruki Murakami (Goodreads/Purchase): 4/5 Stars. This is a collection of short stories that revolve around desire (as the title would suggest). Murakami is a new to me author that I’ve been wanting to try for a while now, but haven’t pulled the plug on reading his book. In his own words, he takes quite a bit of inspiration from Kafka, Carver, Vonnegut, and Jazz Music. All of his works are also translated from the original Japanese text. I’ll be completely honest, it was the “inspiration from Kafka” that worried me. I’m not the biggest Kafka fan (which is putting that very lightly) and I have become wary of authors that pull inspiration from him. All that being said, I really enjoyed this little collection! It was a pleasure to read and I only had one Kafka-esque instance. I’ll definitely give another one of his full-length novels a try later this year to see if I still feel the same about his writing in a longer setting.

The Deal of a Lifetime by Frederik Backman (Goodreads/Purchase): 4/5 Stars. I have yet to read a Backman book that I haven’t enjoyed. This book is especially touching as we follow a man who is facing…a crisis of conscience (trying to figure out wording on this without giving away plot). It is written as a father to son letter and allows the reader to question some life decisions within the safety of “knowing the outcome”. Really enjoyed this read, as I always do, and I’m looking forward to picking up the last couple Backman books I have left on his published list.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Goodreads/Purchase): 4/5 Stars. This is THE BOOK of dark academia. The book that kind of “revived” the genre, gave it a name, brought it to the forefront. We are following a group of snobby Classic Majors at a prestigious university as they try to find a life beyond the humdrum. They become very much wrapped in the subject that they are studying (Latin/Classics) and very quickly things start to unravel. This book just has it all, a friend group, dynamic well-crafted characters, a storyline that follows through, a mystery (I wouldn’t go so far as to say Thriller), and some incredibly beautiful writing. This was my second Donna Tartt book and I enjoyed this one vastly more than The Goldfinch (my first of hers). I found sometimes the narrative would be a little meandering, or the writing would get a little too much, but overall I really enjoyed it.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (Goodreads/Purchase): 3/5 Stars. Oh boy. It’s been a couple of weeks; I’ve had my book club discussion and I still don’t know what to really say about this book. Gear up, this is going to be a fun one. So much fun in fact that I am struggling to come up with a good description of what the book even is. We are following a young man who stumbles on a moment from his life that has wound up in a strange book. This book leads him and us down a rabbit hole (not entirely figurative) and into a world of stories. We follow his story, the fairytale stories, and a slew of side characters as they are trying to figure out the story. Confused yet? That’s how I was for a good amount of this book. I enjoyed the world (scratch that I loved the world, probably the one thing I really loved about this book), I enjoyed the characters (for the most part), but it was just too much story for one book. I would have preferred if she had stuck with one storyline and followed that through, instead of going on so many side stories that we, as readers, are left feeling like we’ve been chewed up, spit out, and no real conclusion. Just too much for one book and I think that that is why I struggled with it so much.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager (Goodreads/Purchase): 5/5 Stars. This was the first book that I read in January that I would classify as a “thriller” and I loved every minute of it. Lock Every Door follows a young woman who has found herself in a bit of a tough life spot. That is until she stumbles upon an apartment sitting ad for an exclusive building. After a quick interview she lands the job, but not all is as it seems. Covering the span of just two weeks, the tension amps up quickly and doesn’t let go until the very last chapter. I read this book in basically one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down. I needed to know what was going to happen next, and even though I predicted who the “bad” person was, I couldn’t predict how everything would unravel and just how tense things would get. Highly, highly recommend this one if you are looking for a quick, captivating, read.

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (Goodreads/Purchase): 5/5 Stars. Dark Academia that is Shakespeare centered? Give me all of it!!!! Pulling a lot of inspiration from The Secret History, If We Were Villains follows a group of Shakespearean Actors at a prestigious college of the arts as they navigate their final year of school. As you would expect, things don’t quite go to plan, and one student ends up in jail. I have to say, this book did it all for me. I loved the Shakespeare references (of which there are too many to even begin), I loved the theatrical element, the school in the woods dark setting, and the twist towards the end. The level of drama was also incredible. I would say that if The Secret History daunts you, or if it you felt like it was too wordy, too long, but otherwise you like it (or the idea of it), then this will be a really good fit. It’s a much more palatable version of Dark Academia.

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter (Goodreads/Purchase): 4.5/5 Stars. After reading Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter towards the end of last year, I’ve been anxious to pick up another of her books. I found this one by chance in our local library (where I also picked up Pretty Girls) and it sounded along the same vein as Pretty Girls in terms of pacing and storyline (although they are quite different). In the Kept Woman we follow a detective, Will, as he sets to solve a crime that he is way too connected to. As things start to get clearer in regard to the crime, they only seem to get “muddier” in his personal life. This book is excellently paced, and the characters have a depth to them that makes you feel like they are really standing in front of you. I enjoyed seeing the growth the characters showed, even if it seemed a little…forced at times (or easy at other times) and found that the author conveyed their personalities all too well. This wasn’t quite a 5-star read for me, but it is really up there and after reading, I actually found out that this book is part of a larger detective series (although it is not necessary to read previous or subsequent novels). I don’t think I’ll read any of the previous books, but I may end up picking up the next one in the series just to see.

The Husband Hunters by Anne de Courcy (Goodreads/Purchase): NR (No rating- I do not rate Nonfiction books). This was a random “I really want an audiobook to listen to” pick and I’m not mad about that. A nonfiction selection, this book details the lives of several young ladies (and their moms/families) in the late 19th/early 20th century who would travel to Europe to find husbands in the aristocracy. I don’t have too much to say about this, as it’s pretty straight forward, but I did really actually enjoy it. The author did a great job at giving the insight into WHY each of these girls found husbands in another country, background on the both the woman and man and their respective families, AND a little look at what happened after they got married. Some of the stories are wild and full of drama, others are fairly tame, but all were interesting.

And finally, I figured I would end this post (and future ones) with what I am currently reading. I am currently reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer. I’ve only just started this, so I don’t have any thoughts quite yet, but I hope to enjoy this one. I think no matter what your ideals are, it’s good to see other aspects and points of view. It’s all about continuing to educate yourself and grow.

 

And now, that’s a wrap on all the books I’ve read in January! A couple questions…Did you enjoy this post? Did any of these books pique your interest, and if so, which ones? What did you most enjoy reading in January? Let me know!

Top Recent Reads ( A 3rd Qtr Favorites)

I’m slowly starting to introduce a little more book/reading content into my blog here because it is such a huge part of my life (in fact, I have a whole blog dedicated to it – The Cosy Book Shoppe). I’ve been trying to figure out how best to do this and figured pulling the book section of my Quarterly favorites would be a good place to start. I also have a couple other posts in the queue coming up about literacy, getting children to read, and what books do for us. To give you a little idea of my reading, in the past 3 months I’ve read a total of 28 books (2 being unpublished manuscripts).

Today, I am going to talk about some of the best books that I’ve read in the past few months. I am going to try and pull a wide variety of genre’s (as I typically try to read a wide variety) as a chance to give you as many options as possible should you want to pick something up on my recommendation. I do talk about books over in my Instagram Stories and have a highlight of some of the books I’ve read recently there as well.

We will start with one of the most recent books I’ve picked up that happens to be Adult Fiction, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. This is an adult fiction that deals with overarching themes of morality and guilt. I don’t want to give a lot away as I found going into somewhat blind was actually a better reading experience, but I loved how thought provoking this book was and the different viewpoint we get to a couple of very tough topics. Upon finishing it, I found myself sitting back and thinking about the book for quite a while, trying to figure out what I could or would do in the same situations. I also had quite a good discussion in our book club and would love to discuss with you if you have, or do, read this book. Fair warning, there are some adult scenes, and Schlink’s writing is very blunt.

I also really loved Summer Crossing by Truman Capote, another Adult Fiction. This was Truman Capote’s first novel that he was working on, found only years after his passing. It is definitely a “juvenile” work, but I found it to still be incredible and if you are a fan of Capote, you will be a fan of this work. I preferred this over Breakfast at Tiffany’s and really wished that he could have finished it. Such an incredible short work of fiction.

For a Fantasy pick (a genre that I am kind of iffy on), I’ve got a total of three. The first two, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison and Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, are adult and the third, A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer, is technically young adult. If you’re looking for a fantasy novel that has really great writing and a perfect balance of sharing/withholding information, then The Fifth Season is for you. Jemison’s writing is really great and I was swept up in her foreshadowing. If you are looking to get swept away by a story and feel transported to a different time and place, then Daughter of the Forest is for you. Marillier has a way of just taking the reader on a journey that is in this world, but not in this world. This particular story involves faeries so bonus if you are into that and is set in medieval Ireland. This one surprised me with how much I did end up loving it as I was unsure of it for quite a while. Finally, if you are looking for an easy read, a Beauty and the Beast retelling, OR a kickass female protagonist, then A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmemer is the one for you. I think that while this technically is a Beauty & the Beast retelling, I found this to be a little more twisty and turny to just your standard retelling.

In terms of a work of non fiction and military related, I found Sacred Duty by Tom Cotton to be a good pick from the past couple months, as well as We Die Alone by David Howarth. Sacred Duty talks about one of the most prestigious units in the military, The Old Guard. The Old Guard performs several tasks, not limited to Military Honors funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, Formal ceremonies at The White House and Pentagon, as well as numerous other day to day activities. The book does get a little dry getting into the actual military history of the unit, but it was overall a very interesting read. I also would recommend We Die Alone by David Howarth. This was an incredible true story of a young soldiers fight to get through Norway to Sweden in an attempt to escape Nazi’s. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t even realize WW2 made it all the way to Norway, but it did and this story is incredible. A bonus is that it includes pictures of different spots and people that were part of the story.

Finally, for some light reading I would recommend the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy by Kevin Kwan and Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. If you are in need of a little light melodrama and a laugh out loud read, the full Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy is for you. It could also be for you if you have been known to enjoy an episode or two of Real Housewives. We follow a rather large, incredibly wealthy Asian family as they deal with “problems” they never thought they would face in their lifetimes. I read each of the books in this trilogy in just a couple days and just loved it. If you are a book lover, or classic literature lover, then Dear Mr. Knightley is for you. We follow a character that quite literally lives her life in her books. She can recite quotes on demand and weaves them into her everyday conversations, using them as a shield. We follow her learn to drop the walls around her and believe in herself. The story is told entirely through letters to a mysterious benefactor, which adds a certain level of fun to the story.

And that’s it! If you have read any of these, please let me know. If you end up picking any of them up, let me know too!

Lately Loving – Media May 2019

Good morning! I wanted to take a little bit of time this morning and talk about some of the things that I am loving lately. I am going to keep this to strictly multimedia (books/tv/movies/music) as I will still be doing my full quarterly favorites. I don’t want to overload you with all of my favorite things, but rather I’ve stumbled on a couple of things over the past month or so that I’ve really loved in those categories that I want to share.

So, we’ll start with Books (as always) :

I’ve recently read two books that I’ve really truly enjoyed, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Two VERY different styles and genre’s, but both really really enjoyable.

Hillbilly Elegy shines a light on the Appalachian way of life, what it was like growing up with that and how he found himself becoming the man he is today. He approaches this novel in a very frank manner (he wholeheartedly acknowledges that he is what would be considered an above average individual) and shines a light on some problems that aren’t typically talked about or are rather glazed over. He doesn’t offer solutions, but rather talks about different options and what we could try to do to help. I appreciate his insight and the fact that he acknowledged and balanced both sides of the equation in this novel.

I’ve been in quite the memoir mood of late and have two more on my list to read, Becoming by Michelle Obama and To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins.

Crazy Rich Asians went the completely opposite direction, depicting a story of an Asian family that has riches the rest of the world can’t even dare to dream of. It tells the story of a young woman trying (and fumbling) to navigate her way being introduced to her boyfriend’s family. His family happens to just be one of the oldest, wealthiest families in Singapore (think- members of the government and royalty owing fealty to them-wealthy) and also the strictest in terms of marriage and relationships. We follow several characters in their heads and their lives as they all come to terms to what wealth really means. It is a lighthearted novel that is just really easy to read (I read the 500+ pages in a little over 3 days!) and would be the perfect read for a summer vacation. It is part of a trilogy that I fully plan on continuing.

Next up on the list, TV:

I don’t really watch a lot of TV, but I have been starting to for a series that I’ve been putting together for my other blog (thecosybookshoppe.com). I’ve been working through a couple of shows and plan on starting a couple here in the next couple weeks.

The first show I’ve been watching is Strike. This is a British produced mystery/crime tv show based off of the Cormoran Strike series written by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). I really enjoyed the book series and the TV show was not a letdown. In fact, I almost prefer the TV show to the books. It’s the perfect balance.

We’ve also been working our way through The Ranch on Netflix, which I have to say has very much surprised me. I enjoy a good show that somewhat comments on current issues in a comedic, light hearted way. The Ranch balances out current issues, with family drama, friend drama, work drama and everything else that comes with a Sitcom. We are on the second “season” (or part as Netflix says) and have been having a good chuckle here and there.

Finally, I’ve been watching A Discovery of Witches…again. I think I actually talked about this in my 1stQuarter favorites, but it is finally coming out on American TV, which means I can purchase it through iTunes, which means that I’ve been watching every episode as it comes out. I’ve been loving watching it again and seeing the characters that I’ve loved from the book come to life in front of me. This is one of those series that I don’t think will ever get old for me (similar to Harry Potter).

I do plan on watching a couple of shows coming up: You, Game of Thrones (season 7- we are behind), and a couple of documentaries on Netflix. I’ll probably share more of those as my end of quarter wrap up.

Third up, Movies:

Next would be Movies, but we haven’t really watched any lately. Most of the movies we watch are animated for the kids, but even those have been sparse. Send me your movie recommendations because we need some!!

And finally, Music:

Oh boy. Another category that I am kind of lacking in. I’ve still been all over the alternative scene, replaying Billie Eilish’s album over and over and over again. I’ve also been loving listening to Muse’s most recent album, Dean Lewis, and Charlie Cunningham. I get really off and on with new music and I think right now I’m just savoring the music that I’m loving, rather than hearing all of the new stuff. I will say though; I wasn’t the biggest fan of Taylor Swift’s new song <gasp>. It was ok, but nothing that I would go absolutely crazy over.

Some Mommy Picks:

I am going to include some mommy picks in here, because my kids have FINALLY found a show that they love more than Paw Patrol. It’s a miracle! They have recently fallen in love with a show on Netflix called DinoTrux. It’s exactly what it sounds like, Dinosaurs in the forms of different types of trucks (a T-Rex as a crane or digger, Triceratops as a bull dozer, etc. ) and they have just been having a blast watching that. They also love the Boss Baby show and surprisingly they enjoy Teletubbies too (which Netflix has brought back from whatever vault that was in).

And that about wraps up what I’ve been loving lately! What have you been loving lately in the multimedia category? Let me know below!