Mid Year Book Freakout Tag – 2020

Happy Monday! Last week I posted my midyear “check in” and I figured I would follow it up with a little book tag. It’s not a deep dive, or something really serious, just a fun little Monday Morning question and answer. At the time that I am writing up this post, I have read a total of 48 books. Not too much of an introduction, let’s just get into the questions!

Best Book you’ve read so far in 2020

Hands down I think one of the best is Circe by Madeline Miller. A close second and third would be The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson and The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (but, both of those will be mentioned later on). There are plenty of books that I enjoyed and gave 5 Stars, but Circe is a book that I am still reminiscing and thinking about.

Best Sequel you’ve read so far in 2020

I have two for this question (because I am really bad at narrowing things down to one) and those are: A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer and World Without End by Ken Follett. I loved both of these in some ways more than the first books.

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

Both The City We Became by N.K. Jemison and My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell are out, and I am really wanting to read both of those. I also would like to read Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad which was released in February.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Top of my list is Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People. I am just a big fan of his and am ready to see what else he is offering. There are a lot more books that I’ve pre ordered, that I’m anxiously awaiting, but this is the first one that comes to mind that hasn’t already been released.

Biggest Disappointment

Ah, again, I have two books for this one: Misery by Stephen King (which was ten times better as a movie than a book) and Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (which was a great setting and concept, but poor execution).

Biggest Surprise

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. I honestly was on the fence, I figured I would either love it or DNF it and to even my own surprise, I loved this! I gave it 4 stars (because I did have some issues with it), but on the whole this one took me by surprise. Another one (just as food for thought) is The One by John Marrs. I only just recently read this one, after hearing about it twice and picking it up on a whim, and ooofff…an unexpected 5 star read for me.

Favorite New Author (Debut or new to you)

Alright, I’ve been recommended this author for years now and I finally this year read a couple of his books…Brandon Sanderson. I flew through Elantris and The Final Empire and am desperate to get to some more in the Mistborn trilogy (and then move on to the other, longer series).

Newest Fictional Crush

I don’t really get any fictional crushes, so no answer on this one 🙂

Newest Favorite characters

I don’t know? I guess I like the setting and main characters of Ellery Adams books. No book in particular, but those characters and settings are just my jam.

Book that made you cry

The Only Plan in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff and Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect Edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macare, Alana Yu-Lan Price, Forward by Alicia Garza. I don’t think I really need to elaborate on either of these.

Book that made you happy

This is a tough one because even with my disappointing reads, I still enjoy reading. Books still make me happy overall. I’m going to have to list Ellery Adams once again as those books are just…so cozy and wonderful in so many ways (and they are light and fluffy with no deeper thought needed).

Most Beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow and it was also a beautiful story as well.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

So many! I won’t list them all here, but I will make a note that for the rest of the year I want to read a diverse selection between fiction and nonfiction and a variety of authors and subjects.

That’s it! I would love to hear some of your answers for the questions, so leave them down below 🙂

 

Binge-able Books/ Book Recommendations | Spring 2020

Going along with the bingeable theme of the week (catch my Bingeable TV HERE), today I am going to share some book recommendations. All of these books are books that I think are perfect to just dive into and get lost in the story. These aren’t all necessarily read in one sitting books, but they are all books that are easy to read and enjoyable. I’ve divided my list up into different categories which I’ll explain as I go along. I tried to keep it to three in a category, but in some cases I went over and had a couple Honorable Mentions.

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First up, it’s “Light/Fluffy” books. These are the books that are just what they are at face value. There isn’t a deeper story to fall into (although you can make one) but rather books that you can just binge read in one setting.

The Secret Book & Scone Society by Ellery Adams (Amazon): This is one of those cozy town mystery books that revolves around a bookstore in a small town as its main location. This particular book is the first in a series that is just a nice little mystery, easy to read in one setting, and some fun characters.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan (Amazon): This is a fun romantic contemporary about a woman who seems to lose it all, only to find her true life calling. Set in the backdrop of the highlands of Scotland this is the PERFECT read in one day romance there is. Like the above, it is just a nice little story to read.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (Amazon): I mentioned this in my bingeable tv, but I think the books are absolutely incredible. This is probably the one book out of these three that is a bit “heavier” and can be read a bit deeper. This book (and series) mixes romance, with drama, science, and history in a way that I just really love. It also features a character that I see myself in so much as an adult and has a much more realistic relationship form (once you get past one bit) in the storyline.

Next, I’ll be touching on some “Young Adult” books to read. I kind of go back and forth about how I feel about the whole concept of “young adult”, but these are books that aren’t quite adult in nature and may be a bit easier to read.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (Amazon): A Beauty and the Beast retelling that has a parallel universe to our modern-day D.C., I really enjoyed this take on the classic tale. We have a great main female character who doesn’t take any sh*t and stands her ground from start to finish. This is an easy book to read, and the second book is even better than the first.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (Amazon): A Sherlock Holmes re-imagining following his descendent as she goes through an elite, private boarding school. Don’t worry, Watson’s descendent is there too and together they solve some eerily familiar cases throughout the four books of this series. This would be perfect if you wanted that cozy mystery feel, but at a boarding school.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Greene (Amazon): Again, my third rec is a bit darker than the previous two, but I absolutely love the way John Greene explains mental illness in this book. It is plain and clear exactly what the character feels, how it can affect her life, and different (or the lack thereof) coping mechanisms that people can use.

If you are wanting a “Reality TV Style Guilty Pleasure” read, I think the following will definitely meet that…

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Amazon): I absolutely adore this trilogy of books. These characters are just obscene enough to allow you to escape to their elaborate lifestyle, and there is just enough drama to let you forget about your own. If you are a fan of any iteration of Real Housewives you will absolutely love this whole trilogy. Highly bingeable, I read each of the three books in two days (a book).

A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (Amazon): This is honestly just pure paranormal romance and I’m not ashamed to put it on here (…ok maybe a little ashamed). This was probably the most guilty pleasure read I’ve had in a long time and I loved every minute of this high paced, vampire, book mystery romance. Be prepared for some steamy scenes.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (Amazon): Alright, here’s the deal…these books are not the best written, they are not the best at really anything other than delivering the best drama and trashy that you just know you want. It’s a love to hate situation as I know they are really not the best out there, but man did I eat all three books up so quickly.

Moving on to some of the more “serious” books now with some “Darker/Thriller” esque titles to read…

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (Amazon): If you want something dark, with questionable themes and characters, then I would highly suggest this book. Karin goes dark (with maybe not an entire reason), but she did a great job at keeping my attention and making this longer book paced perfectly to keep me reading late into the night.

You by Caroline Kepnes (Amazon): Ok, another I mentioned in my bingeable tv post, but I LOVED this book. The creep factor is 100% there and the entire book had a spooky element that I hadn’t read before (at the time I read this a few years back). Neither of your main characters is likeable (really none in the entire “cast” is) and it is the definition of picking the better of two bad people to root for.  I highly recommend this one, even if you’ve watched the TV show.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh (Amazon): This wasn’t my favorite thriller, but I still really loved it and I flew through it in a day or two. There are some major twists that the reader doesn’t see coming and it is paced in a way that, again, you won’t want to put it down until the end.

I’ve got to give an honorable mention to Stephen King and his Mr. Mercedes series (Amazon). Three compulsive reads that are scary because they could be real and really good reads overall.

Now, for a few “heavier” book topics. These aren’t longer, heavier, anything, but rather the topics are a bit heavier than what I’ve listed so far.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Amazon): This is one of the most incredible books that looks at some very serious family dynamics and topics. Celeste Ng is one of the most beautiful writers that I have read that writes contemporary and I’ve loved both this and Little Fires Everywhere.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (Amazon): Did you really think I was going to put a couple of heavier titles out and not include this gem of a book. This will definitely be a tissue grabber of a story, but it is so incredible and so worth it. It gives an insight to some of the powerful people in World War 2 that we don’t often recognize.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thompson (Amazon): Honestly, this was THE book on gun violence that I wanted because it contains the best conversation on gun violence (the conversation that I’ve always wanted to have). This is classified as a young adult novel, but it is so beyond worth the read. This is still a hot button conversation that needs to take place.

I’m going to insert some Memoir recommendations here, before my last fiction section…

Educated by Tara Westover (Amazon): The story of Tara’s life dealing with survivalist parents who didn’t believe in a mainstream life, and an abusive childhood, this story was incredible. She talks about what her childhood was like, how she educated herself, attended some of the prestigious universities, and came out of her trauma a better person.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (Amazon): This was easily one of the most incredible memoirs I’ve read. Written by a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with lung cancer, Paul tackles the question of “What makes life worth living”. Paul passed away while working on this book and I think that makes it all the more poignant of a read.

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou (Amazon): In this memoir Maya Angelou talks about both her own relationship with her mother, with her grandmother, and then her own relationship with her son and her life as a mother. This was incredible to read as she has such insight in dealing with a mother who may not have always been considered the best.

A Couple of honorable mentions would be The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Amazon), which was great and talked about a strong women conquering a childhood that was not the norm. I also enjoyed Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (Amazon) which gave insight to a childhood and life in the belly of America.

Finally, let’s talk about some “Long” Books. Books that are bigger, longer, more in depth stories, but still worth the read and time to read.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (Amazon): I never thought I would love a book that was about building a cathedral as much as I loved Pillars of the Earth. Ken has a way of spinning a story, creating characters, locations, and plots that you absolutely love, and have you spellbound within the story. These are long books, but amazing ones.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (Amazon): This book is incredible. I hadn’t read a High Fantasy novel in ages until I just dived into The Name of the Wind. There is something that feels very “everyday” to this story, not as if you’re in an entirely different world.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Amazon): My very last recommendation is not as long as the other two, but it is a denser read and so incredibly worth it. It’s a beautifully written story, a story for readers and authors alike. I honestly think everyone needs to read Zafon at some point and now is a better time than any other. Dive right in and escape into his vivid story.

I am going to give an honorable mention to Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (Amazon) (the only of his books that I’ve read- and based on it I would probably recommend his others). I loved the politics of this story and the overall premise. He does a great job at creating this world and I really enjoyed the book. I am also going to give an honorable mention to a book that I am currently reading which is Priory of the Orange Tree (Amazon). This behemoth of a book has a story that has Asian inspiration, is high fantasy court/political intrigue, and has dragons. I am still reading it so I can’t be fully sure of the recommendation, but so far so good!

Since I included this on my bingeable tv shows, I figured I would share some of the books that are on my radar. I am currently participating in a readathon, so I won’t be getting into any of these until May at the earliest, but these are what have been popping up in my mind…

The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, and The Mirror & the Light, all by Hilary Mantel

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

American Royals by Katherine McGee

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

And that about wraps it up! What are you currently reading? Do you have any book recommendations?

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!