A Cuppa Cosy Reads – June 2020

Once again, we’ve reached the end of another month and it’s time to talk about all the books I read in June…or lack thereof. I feel like June wasn’t my best reading month as I was solo parenting for a good amount of it, there were numerous other things needing my attention, and I read a couple whoppers of a book (aka longer tomes). None the less, I am here today to talk about some of those books that I’ve read. Since this post is going up a few days before the end of the month, I’ll also be including my current read as I will be finishing that before the end of the month as well. 

Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams (Purchase) 4.5/5 Murder in the Mystery Suite is the first book in a series of “cozy mysteries”. We follow along with a young mom as she learns that the life she had always known was a “cover” for her family history. Secret societies, books, murder and mystery follow and each book raises the stakes. These are just quick, easy, “feel good” mysteries. 

Who Do you Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States Edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macare, and Alana Yu-Lan Price (Purchase) NR This is a collection of essays about police brutality and race in regard to police brutality. It was incredibly eye opening, brutally honest, and just a hard, but important read. I highly recommend if you are looking for a book that will break down a lot of the issues that happen with police custody and BIPOC. 

The One by John Marrs (Purchase) 5/5 If you want a roller coaster of a thriller, with a unique premise, this is the book for you. In The One we follow five characters in a world where you are able to find your genetic soulmate. Scientists have isolated a strand of DNA that tells you exactly who you were meant to spend your life with. The only problem? It is focused on the genetic aspect, not the WHO of each person. As these five characters find their match, lives unravel and change in a heartbeat. An absolutely incredible book, this one will keep you reading late into the night. 

Murder in the Paperback Parlor by Ellery Adams (Purchase) 4.5/5 This is the second book to Murder in the Mystery Suite and this one was my favorite mystery out of the three I’ve read in this series. I’m not going to say too much as this is a series that builds upon itself, even though the mysteries are different. What I will say is that I love this setting and the concept of the stories and it’s just a joy to read each one. 

Beloved by Toni Morrison (Purchase) 5/5 Beloved is the story of a slave woman during and after the Civil War and her life. It is incredibly difficult to read, both in part due to the storytelling, but also due to the atrocities she experienced and lived through. Her trauma comes through in every single page. This is such a good read, laying out the facts of what she went through (in a different way than the police brutality book), and then her PTSD from those atrocities. It is not a book I was able to read straight through, I had to put it down about halfway through, read something light, and then go back to it, but it was very much worth reading. 

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (Purchase) 4/5 This is the second book in the Mistborn trilogy, and I waited all month to read it, and it was well worth that wait. We pick up a year after The Final Empire and the action starts right on page 1. I loved the deepening of the world, the new lore that was discovered throughout, as well as the politics and intrigue that was going on. I will say, similar to The Final Empire, there were parts that lagged and were tough to get through, but the last third of the book was nonstop. 

And finally, I am currently reading Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams (Purchase) and, of course, loving being back at Storyton Hall. As of writing this, I’ve only just started, but these are quick easy reads, so I anticipate finishing this up in a day or two at the most. 

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 🙂

 

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 – April 2020

Has April finally come to an end? Not quite, but I am taking a moment to go ahead and wrap up all of the books that I have read in April. Maybe it’s jumping the gun a bit (but in reality it’s not and you’ll see why at the end of this post), but I’m also just over April so this is my way to hurry it out the door haha.

So, some stats and info about April. I participated in a readathon over the past month called the O.W.L.S. Magical Readathon (because I am that kind of Harry Potter fan). I participated last year and was excited to do so this year. This year was my goal was to complete 8 challenges and achieve the first set of exams for the Hogwarts Librarian position, with the additional shop training (…HERE is a link to the video explaining all of this- just in case you are this kind of Harry Potter fan too).

In the end, I read (or will have read by midnight Thursday 30. April) 8 books, completing 7 of the challenges. Thankfully only 5 are necessary for my career, but I am still fairly pleased with my reading total. I read across quite a few genres, including some I’ve never read from before, and read one incredibly long, fantasy novel. My rating average was a whopping 4.6/5 (the highest it’s been in a while) and I genuinely loved most of what I read.

*Before I really want to get into this list, I want to make a quick note. I have included a link below to the Amazon page for each book, HOWEVER I would highly recommend (and honestly prefer if it is a possibility for you) checking your local independent bookstore before purchasing from Amazon. Many local bookstore are either shipping or doing some form of curbside pickup and they could really use your business. If they don’t have the book, they may still be able to order it for you on request. You could even check your chain bookstore if your local bookstore can’t help you (or if you do not have a smaller independent bookstore in your area). My point is, Amazon is great for some things, but right now it is better to support our small businesses so they can survive this time.*

So, let’s just get into the books that I read in April…

A Cuppa Cosy Reads - February 2021

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (Amazon) 5/5 Stars. This is one of those books that is just beautifully done. We follow a young January Scaller as she is learning that the world she has grown up in is not the world she belongs in, nor the world that she wants to be in after she discovers a door. This book not only contains a beautifully done story, mixing together a coming of age story with a fantasy/magical door concept, and the unique power of words and books, BUT contains so many beautiful one liner quotes. An easy, but savory read for a rainy week/weekend.

Circe by Madeline Miller (Amazon) 5/5 Stars Another just incredibly written story. Circe follows the Greek Myth of Circe, giving her a story that is told “by her” rather than by the men in her life. This is easily one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read, not because the story was incredible, but because of Madeline Miller’s writing. She just created these moments where you felt with the character (as opposed to for, besides, whatever). Beautifully crafted, effortless to read, and incredible from start to finish, I highly recommend this book.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Amazon) 3/5 Stars This was my first Neil Gaiman book and I found it to be OK. Not blow my socks off, not absolutely horrible, but OK. In The Ocean at the End of the Lane we follow a young boy who experiences something…not of this world. In a short time, his world is upended and then set back to rights with no memory of it happening. So, overall I liked this book. It was really enjoyable, and it wasn’t anything deep or scary. However, because it is written from a juvenile perspective, it did come off as juvenile at times.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (Amazon) 5/5 Stars This was a re-read and something I don’t really feel like I need to really elaborate on. Loved the experience of listening to this on audio and just love this series.

Orange Vol. 1 by Ichigo Takano (Amazon) NR This is a manga that has a contemporary storyline. We follow a young lady and her group of friends as she receives a letter from the future. Overall this was pretty good. My only overall issue was, at times, I didn’t care for the “innocence” or (stupidity) as it got a bit annoying. With that being said, our group of characters are predominantly in high school, so it’s to be expected.

Werewolves by Konstantinos (Amazon) NR This was a book that I read purely for the readathon and don’t have any major thoughts on. Basically, this covers werewolves, from the myths, to the rules, to history. Honestly, I don’t care about werewolves to this extent, so this was a bit of a throw away read for me.

And now, the two books that I am currently reading and have full plans on finishing before Friday (1 May)…

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (Amazon) This is a high fantasy novel about two warring kingdoms and dragons (both of the good and bad kind). We follow several characters, evenly distributed through both kingdoms as they start to realize that they may be united against one common enemy. I’m still currently reading this, although I will definitely have it done soon and I’m loving the story! This book has just wrapped me up and I’ve been super impressed with Samantha Shannon’s writing and world building. No detail is too small for her and she balanced telling us about the world with telling us the story pretty well.

Sex With Kings by Eleanor Herman (Amazon) My final read of the month of April; this book is like a real-life guilty pleasure. This book is basically just talking through the monarchs and their mistresses and EVERYTHING that comes with that. Scandalous, juicy, if you need some reality tv reading, this is the book for you. I’ve learned so much that I’ve actually looked at some of the places we’ve seen here a bit differently (Neuschwanstein Castle is one…). It’s just a fun time.

And that wraps up my April Reading Month! I can’t really name any favorites, or disappointments, and it was a very positive month overall. What was your favorite book you read?

 

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?

1st Quarter Favorites – 2020

3 months into the year and it already feels like 2020 has had so much. As we are all trying to cling to a bit of normalcy, I figured I would start to move away from talking about the things we are all feeling anxious about and move back into some more “normal” content. Since it is the end of March, therefore the end of the 1stquarter, I figured I would share some things that I have been loving lately.

Skin/Hair/Body

Treseme Clarifying Shampoo

Let me tell you, I have been struggling with my hair. My hair overproduces oils and can be tough to manage at time with buildup. Add in the hard water of Germany and it’s been a struggle to find something that truly works. I was originally using the Redken Cleansing Crème and that worked so incredibly well, but they’ve changed their formula and the new Miceller version is just not as good. I can make it work, but I wanted something that I didn’t have to…try so hard with. I did a little look through of various clarifying shampoo’s and this one was actually raved about and, being a drugstore product, it is much easier to get here than some of the other options I was finding. Let me tell you, it works. I’ve been using it for almost a month when this post goes up and I’m really liking it. It helps remove the buildup, without stripping everything out of your hair and leaves my hair feeling really good. I can go back to going almost 3 days without washing my hair.

Simple Cleanser

I’ve been using this product for over a year now and still absolutely love it. If you are in need of a gentle cleanser that will let your skin breathe while still removing toxins, all without breaking the bank, this is an excellent option. It’s one of those products that I will always love because it does everything I want it to at a reasonable price point. Skincare can add up and get expensive fast, but it’s nice to know that there are good options on the lower end as well.

Food/Drink

Blue Corn Tortilla Chips

Ok, so I’m trying not to eat chips as much, but I’ve developed a little soft spot for these blue corn tortilla chips. They are absolutely delicious! I almost like them more than regular tortilla chips (almost, but not quite) and I try to opt for them if I can as they can be slightly healthier (or rather you can find a slightly healthier option).

Ninja Specialty Coffee Bar

This product has been life changing. I kid, I kid…kind of. I’ve been wondering about getting a cappuccino machine, or some sort of coffee machine that has the option of making specialty drinks, for a little bit now. I like to have the option to make these coffee’s on weekends when we are home, but I hadn’t decided what to get or bit the bullet to buy one. Then, I received this coffee bar for my birthday, and it’s been a game changer. Not only can you make fancy coffee (I’ve done latte’s and cappuccinos), but you can also just make a standard cup of coffee. You have a variety of sizes and an iced option as well. It’s completely idiot proof (coming from a coffee idiot) and the only thing it CAN’T do is actually heat your milk. This is a simple fix, but I will probably invest in a steamer at some point for my milk.

Multi-Media

Let’s talk TV first…

We’ve sure been busy on the TV front and I’ve got a lot to share about. First up, we have watched the second season of Sex Education and are still just as obsessed as we were with the first season. It’s just the perfect balance of humour, inappropriate-ness, and drama. We’ve also recently started watching 100 Humans and are really enjoying it as well. Next up is two reality shows that I’ve been all over, Love is Blind and Tiger King. These are so beyond different, but both were completely binge worthy to me. I watched both in a matter of a couple days. Love is Blind is the dating show that we all need in our lives, full of annoying personalities, drama, and will they or wont they questions throughout. Tiger King is on another level of crazy. It’s not quite as addicting as Love is Blind (you could easily walk away from it), but it is still something to watch. It is a mystery, unraveling story that involves exotic private zoos and a murder for hire situation. The back and forth, twists and turns, and just wild personalities make it an entertaining moment. I’ve also watched 3 Wives 1 Husband and that was a wild ride as well detailing out a community of polygamists. It’s not very long (a few episodes), but is quite the head scratcher.

Podcasts…

I’ve been bouncing between YouTube, Podcasts, and Music while I am doing chores, but I’ll start with a podcast that I’ve been loving, From the Front Porch. This podcast is brought to you buy the owners and employees of The Bookshelf in Thomasville and is just a pure spot of happiness to listen. Get a book recommendation, listen to them dissect a book, or just chat about day to day happenings in the store. In terms of books, I also enjoy Books Unbound which has a little bit of everything. I’ve also had a friend recently start a podcast, The Legacy Entrepreneur, which is a great option if you are looking into a semi business related, religious podcast (she incorporates religion into her business in a way that I enjoy).

Music…

I’ve been all over Spotify lately, but the two playlists I’ve been listening to the most (that aren’t mine) have been Beth Sandlands’ Social Distancing Kitchen Party, which is full of feel good hits that are the perfect pick me up. Put it on, crank it up, and dance it out. The other list is a playlist called mors vincit omnia- Ninth House which is by a local friend and features a darker theme. If I just need to feel like a badass for a minute or two then I put it on and get down to the issue.

Books

I’ve got my March Reading Wrap Up here (here is January and February), but I figured I would take this chance to talk about some of my particular favorites from the first quarter as well as a book or two to maybe avoid. In the first quarter of the year I’ve read a total of 27 books. I’m feeling pretty good about my reading at this point and have overall enjoyed most of what I’ve picked up. The top 3 have been World Without End by Ken Follett, A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer, and The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff. The disappointing reads have been The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, The Wives by Tarryn Fisher, and Misery by Stephen King.

And that about does it for my first quarter favorites! What is something you’ve been loving over the past few months?

 

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?

How We Are Staying Sane in This Time at Home…And How You Can Too

Ok, so this is now our new normal…kids at home, off school (though not entirely), working from home, husbands working from home, parks, playgrounds and other spots not accessible…it’s a lot of “at home time”. Now, I’m a homebody and introvert as it is, so this isn’t necessarily a huge deal for me, but I recognize that for some people it can be quite jarring. Throw in kids being home from school, but not able to go do anything and then have to do homeschooling, along with trying to work from home or just keep the house clean and the laundry done…it’s a lot. So, how do we stay sane?

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I’ve both worked from home and been a stay at home parent (doing both of those for about 3 years) and have come up with a couple of things that helped me. I also have found a few resources that helped out with educational purposes (for our age/grade level), boredom, and just general resources to have and today I’m going to share it all with you in the hopes that it can be helpful to someone else.

Tip #1: Get dressed. This is probably one of those things that I just preach about all the time. I’m a firm believer in how you look/carry/take care of yourself plays a direct role on your outlook and productivity. So, every morning get up and get dressed. I don’t care if that is putting on leggings and a sweater, your comfiest jeans, or dressing to the nines with heals and a smart outfit, just get dressed in something OTHER THAN your sleeping clothes. While it may seem like we don’t have a lot to do during this time, getting dressed will have a huge affect on your mood and outlook. Start doing this and you’ll feel less like just a bump on a log.

Tip #2: Get Active. We can’t do a lot right now. In our area all of the parks, hiking spots, and outdoor activities have been largely closed off as an extra precaution. That doesn’t mean that we can’t move our bodies. We are still able to go for a walk in our neighborhood (which we are doing as long as the weather holds out for us), we can do indoor at home workouts (which we do), and we can have spontaneous dance parties (which we also do…a lot). Being active, getting your body moving and your heart rate up, releases those feel good endorphins in your brain and helps you stay uplifted.

Tip #3: Eat Properly. I think this is the one that I probably struggle with the most (especially right now), but what we put in our bodies plays such a role, similar to what we wear. This is not the time to just eat junk food, pig out because we are bored, or snack all day long. It’s tough because we are at home all day and have easy access to whatever we would like in our kitchen, but avoid it. Eat as you would if you were not home and you will feel infinitely better. Personally, I find that if I am eating a lot of junk or crap food, I not only want to eat more of it (seriously who ONLY eats the recommended portion of chips?!), but I also end up feeling even more like a bump on a long afterwards. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy options (I’m still working on this) and leave the junk food for special moments that you really need them.

Tip #4: Set a Flexible Routine. This one applies more to those of us with kids (specifically preschool/elementary school aged), but I find that a flexible routine really helps when it feels like everything has been upended. What I mean when I say flexible is that I try to be understanding when the boys have had enough of an activity. Let me give you an idea…Our days breakdown like this:

9AM : Everyone is up, dressed, fed/eating

9:30AM-12:OOAM: Indoor Playtime and School Work. The boys will play throughout the house and I will try and squeeze in worksheets, coloring, reading, etc. to continue to stimulate the brain activity and learning that Colton at least has gotten with school.

12PM: Lunch

12:30PM-2:00PM: Outdoor Play. It’s been much warmer and more spring like the past couple days to in between lunch and naptime we will run outside and play. I’ll take a book out there and read as well.

2PM-3:15/30PM: Andrew Nap Time. Colton and I will spend about 10-15 minutes reading a book and then he will get a little online educational screen time. If he has done a lot of “schooling” already then he can have some screen TV time. This is also when I get on the computer and do some writing if needed OR I’ll do a bit more reading. Overall it’s quiet time across the board in our home.

3:30PM-4:00PM: Afternoon Snack. We didn’t used to do an afternoon snack, but since school has started up it’s been instituted.

4:00PM-6:00PM: Walk/Bike Ride/ Outdoor time. Again, trying to soak up the weather when we get it, this is just another extension of playtime. If the weather is bad we will do some indoor activity or snuggle up for a movie.

6:30PM: Dinner

Post Dinner the boys have playtime in their rooms until it is time to clean up and get ready for bed. This is important as it gives my husband and I a chance to catch up and have some time together as well as a little quiet just in general.

Now, I just use blocks of time within the day. I found that I prefer planning in these types of increments (that’s a whole separate post), BUT it gives for flexibility. If Colton is really struggling to focus at times, I can let him do what he likes, and we will come back to that particular activity later. However, it’s also not just a free for all in our day. The boys know when they are going to get to do something within the day (i.e. Colton knows that we will do “school” in the morning, but he can play the computer school in the afternoon). This obviously changes based on what your school is actively doing about online learning, but for us this works. They get a chance to both learn school subjects that they need to, but they also get some real world learning too.

***For educational needs we are using a couple of different resources. First off we have a workbook that we brought with us for preschool aged children that works through prewriting skills, shapes, letters, numbers, and other necessary skills. We do a couple of work pages out of that along with the other resources listed below.

I print out math worksheets from k5learning.com. Most of these are geared towards K-5th Grade (as the web address would imply), but there are a couple that can be adjusted to the preschool age level as well. I have printed a couple of letter worksheets from this site as well.

Scholastic has a site that breaks down a daily guide HERE. They supply a book, a movie, and then some fun interactive games that include both and stimulate brains. We’ve only done one or two days through this, but Colton has really enjoyed the entire process. It brings some of the things that his teachers are working on in the classroom into our home (the little quiz about first, next, last was a big thing).

Abcmouse.com This has been a big one for us. We used this prior to the closure, and both of our kids absolutely love it. Colton has learned so much through the site and Andrew has loved watching them read the books to him. It makes me feel a little bit better for them having screen time since they are learning something (beyond just the Paw Patrol theme song and missions).

Youtube has some great educational options to choose from as well so you can turn that screen time into something too AND many zoo’s are doing Facebook Lives or Videos talking about their animals while the zoo’s are closed (Cincinnati has been a great option). I have also printed off the Discovery K12 homeschool sites preschool “syllabus” or learning guide just to make sure I touch on all the different options for what the kids need to be learning.

There are so many more out there that I haven’t even touched on. We are in a unique situation with only having one in school and it being preschool, so it’s pretty easy to work with. I know a lot of elementary schools (and upper level) are doing an online learning program and may have different requirements. My only suggestion would be that if it falls into their rules and parameters that you work with your kids. If they are really struggling to focus and they can take a little break, let them.

Tip #5: Keep in Touch. I came across this on Social Media and thought it was a great idea. If you are an extrovert, or someone that just needs adult contact beyond your significant other or roommate, or parents, then video chat with friends! Technology is a great thing and we have such an opportunity right now with the ability to very easily have face to face conversations over our phones. Set up “phone dates” with your friends and chat with them over the phone or through video. It may not be exactly what you picture, but it’s better than absolutely nothing.

Tip #6: Keep Your Brain Engaged. Another big one just in overall terms of feeling “productive”. Here’s the gist of what I am going to say…don’t spend all of your time binge watching Netflix, or scrolling Social Media, or watching YouTube. Look, I’ve got nothing against a good binge watch, wasting away a few hours watching a show that is just that addicting. I’ve done it many a time and will probably do it quite a bit over the next bit of time. BUT don’t let that be the only thing that you do. If you are spending that much time looking at a screen, letting your mind lull, it’ll start to play out in other areas of your life. Take this time to get your brain engaged in something you love or something you’ve always wanted to do. I know that I plan on catching up on a lot of reading, which serves as both a brain engaging activity AND a means of escapism. I also plan on doing a fair amount of writing (even though my posting schedule is drastically changing- more on that soon). There are so many options to keep your brain engaged, pick up a book (need ideas? HERE is a link to my goodreads where you can look at what I’ve been picking up), start a blog (this blog post by Helene In Between is a great guide if you are lost in that process, but want to do it), learn a new skill, take an online class (here’s a good option to search classes, but there are SO MANY free college courses out there and sites like SkillShare that charge a monthly subscription, but give you such a broad scope of tailored classes). All those things that you’ve been saying of I don’t have the time for this? NOW you do. So, use that time. Engaging your brain will make you feel productive, it’ll make you feel like yourself, and have you feeling positive about staying home all day.

Ultimately my tips can be summed up into ways of making this time at home, this abrupt change, into something positive. Keeping our spirits up and our outlooks positive is about the ONLY WAY we are going to get through this with our sanity. As always, caffeine is our friend (except when it disrupts our sleep), music is a great way to bring a smile all around, and checking in on friends and family is a must. Do you have any tips to add?

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – February 2020

“I need books like I need oxygen” – Ellery Adams, The Book of Candlelight

Welcome to my library, my domain, my happy place. It is time to, once again, wrap up the books that I have read in the past month.

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Photo by Angie at A Cup of Grace Photography

February was a bit all over the place with reading. I read a total of 8 books, listened to 2 books on audio, and DNF’d 1 book and honestly, I felt like my reads were either incredible or mediocre (to bad). Looking at my rating I gave mostly either 3 Star or 5 Star ratings to each book and it was definitely something that played a role both in the books I picked up and in how I felt while reading each subsequent book.

So, let’s just break down all of the books I read in February. Starting with my completed physical books:

A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer: (Goodreads/Purchase) 5/5 Stars. This is the second book in a Trilogy that has really impressed me. In the first book we follow a young girl as she is thrust into a Fantasy world that parallels our own, and she has to fight for her new home to survive. In this second book we follow the same characters as the first, meet some new characters, and have the stakes increased once again. I think I preferred this second book to the first one as we get to delve more into the politics of these different towns, we get to see a different side of our characters as well as continue to see strong female characters navigating society. I loved the first book, but I think I’ve loved this second one even more.

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay: (Goodreads/Purchase) 3/5 Stars. Ah, I think my most disappointing read of the month. In The Bronte Plot we follow a young lady who seems to have it all, only to have everything crash down around her. As she works to try and pick up the pieces she goes on a trip that will change everything for her. This was my third Katherine Reay novel and I think I’ve liked each one less and less. In this story I did not connect with our main character, Lucy, in any way. I found her to be quite…annoying. I didn’t care for the love interest, nor did I understand why certain elements were added within the book. Quite honestly, the book wasn’t bad necessarily (and wouldn’t be bad if you just wanted something light and fluffy to read), but it felt half assed at times.

Bunny by Mona Awad: (Goodreads/Purchase) 3/5 Stars. I don’t even know where to begin with this book, including how to summarize it. We follow Samantha who feels like she doesn’t “fit in” with the other students in her master’s Program. One day she receives an invitation to join into an exclusive salon held by the other women in her program, called The Bunnies. All is not what it seems though and as Samantha falls deeper she starts to take part in some dangerous rituals with a deadly outcome. (All per the inside flap of the book). Honestly this book had me saying “WTF” from start to finish and I still don’t even know what was really going on. There is something sickly sweet and funny about this book, but also just really out there and really confusing.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer: (Goodreads/Purchase) NR. I really wanted to listen to the audiobook for this book as I had heard such rave reviews for the audio, but alas it was not meant to be. Eating Animals is a nonfiction book talking about the animal industry. It follows one man as he works through his education about the industry, his feelings towards eating animals, and ultimately what he decided. Honestly, I think someone that I really appreciated about this book was that while it was focused on the ethics (which is something that I already knew about going into this book), BUT it shared multiple perspectives. We get to hear testimonial from Cattle Ranchers, Factory Farmers, PETA, and someone who is vegetarian (I believe) but runs a ranch. I think something I took away from this book is that ultimately everyone has to do what is right by their own moral code.

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher: (Goodreads/Purchase) 3.5/5 Stars. Ah this book was a conflicting one- on one hand a wild ride, but on the other a bit of a disappointment. The Wives asks you “What if your husband was married to two other women and what if one of those women shows signs of abuse.” So, this book was an easy read, contained some good twists, and had a really great concept. HOWEVER, I did not care for the main character for 2/3’s of the book and found the ending to not entirely fit with the rest of the story.

The Book of Candlelight by Ellery Adams: (Goodreads/Purchase) 5/5 Stars. Another sequel has made the list! This is the third book in the Secret, Book, and Scone Series, a series which follows 4 women who have found friendship with each other. Each books presents a mystery in their little town of Miracle Springs and we follow them as they try to solve that mystery. Gosh, I just want these books to continue to come out and we can continue to just live in this little world. I love the vibe of the bookstore and town that these stories take place and I love that are characters are starting to grow and open up more and more.

World Without End by Ken Follett: (Goodreads/Purchase) 5/5 Stars. This is a sequel or companion novel to Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, and I loved it just as much as the first one. In World Without End we are still in Kingsbridge, although we are a couple generations removed from the first story. When a mysterious fight occurs in the forest, 4 young children and one adult end up being bound together for much longer than they ever thought. Let me just say this, Ken Follett knows how to weave a saga. I loved every single page of this 1000+ page book and I loved that we got to follow a few women who worked hard to follow their passion/dream and didn’t cave to demands of others. I really liked the strength of our characters and that we get to see a little bit more of the town politics. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls: (Goodreads/Purchase) NR. Man, Lily was one heck of a woman. In Half Broke Horses we follow the grandmother of Jeannette Walls as she grows up on the frontier. Lily is an incredible woman, from breaking horses at a young age, to growing up learning how to fight for what she believes at a time when women weren’t really fighting. Jeannette wrote this book in first person, which not only makes the book easily readable and relatable, but adds a power and insight to the era’s that she lived in. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and would highly recommend.

Now on the books I listened to on Audio:

The Only Plane in the Sky : An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff: (Goodreads/Purchase) NR. This was the most incredible book I’ve listened to in my life. This spans out September 11 and the days following in the words of those who experienced it. You hear from survivors, their families, pilots of other planes, people in the Capital, members of Air Traffic Control, and so many others. I think this is one of those books that is just the greatest tribute and memorial we could ever have. I highly, highly recommend listening to the Audio book, but I will also be purchasing the physical book because it was just that good.

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire: (Goodreads/Purchase) 5/5 Stars. Listen, I just love diving back into these novella length stories, and I don’t think anything will change that. In this 5th installment we get to meet back up with some of my favorite characters and see a new world within this world. The Wayward Children series is a really fun series of novella length stories that talk about what happens when children return from these other worlds (like Alice in Wonderland, Narnia, etc.). They are really just good fun to read.

And Finally, the one book that I “gave up” on:

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson: (Goodreads/Purchase) I’ll be honest, I was hoping that this book would be along the same vein of the Charlotte Holmes series, which is one of my favorite school set mysteries in the Young Adult genre. The premise sounds great, a kidnapping at a school that leads to a famous cold case. We follow two different timelines as our main character tries (with some fierce determination) to solve the kidnapping. I got about 130 pages in when I realized that I just wasn’t connecting to the story or the characters and everything just felt a bit…meh. Instead of trying to push through, I just put it down as the feeling I was getting was one of “the whole story is going to be a bit meh” rather than “maybe I just need to get through this set up portion first”.

So, those are all of the books that I read in the month of February! As of the time that I am writing this I am in the process of deciding what to read next as I’ve just finished Half Broke Horses. What was your favorite book that you read in the month of February?

 

 

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!