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 🙂

 

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 – 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?

 

 

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!

Round the Kettle Ep 17: Happy September!

Oh September, you absolute bliss of a month…

Hello, hello, hello! How are you? How did August treat you? It was quite the month wasn’t it?! I’m trying to sum up what August was like, but I just don’t think I really can. It was full of the highest of high’s and some really low lows. And honestly, it’s all in the past now. We are at the start of a new month and the possibilities are endless if we only take the steps. Ok, already getting a little hokey.

I struggle sometimes sharing the negative side of things. I have a whole post going up about this that will explain a lot, but also, once that rough time has passed, I don’t really want to think about it or talk about it. Which can be incredibly detrimental. I like to just move forward in a positive light and not focus on the bad that happened. It’s a good way to live life for the most part, except when you actually need to face what happened, so you don’t have the same struggles the next time.

Anyway, that was a fully cryptic way of starting out this Round the Kettle…

The first of September is my happy place. I usually mark it as the start of Autumn (even though Autumn doesn’t officially begin until closer to the end of the month), school is usually in session, the weather is slowly starting to cool down, and everything starts to turn cosy. Autumn is my favorite time of year and I literally start pulling for it the earliest days that I can. The first day we get the cooler, greyer, rainier days, I instantly get excited and start planning all of our Autumnal activities.

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The first of September is also “Back to Hogwarts” day, which, as a Harry Potter fan, is an important time lol.

What do you think? Are you one of those people who holds on to Summer for as long as you can, or do you jump right into Autumn as soon as you can?

September is shaping up to be fairly similar to August in that my husband will be in an out most of the month for work, but we are planning a little day or overnight trip at the start of the month (likely is currently or has happened when this post is going up) and a couple other fun things throughout the month. I’ve got what is also shaping up to be a fairly regular to busy blog posting schedule. Not quite the three posts a week that August was, but regular and a wide variety of topics.

Even though the month itself is shaping up to be similar, I am hoping that I’ll be in a bit better mindset and shape to handle everything. I think for August I just struggled with coming right off Moving House, Vacation, and then right into a super busy month and I just hadn’t gotten a chance to take a little bit and get my mind together. Ironically, I feel like this post (which has been written end of August…) is fairly all over the place and pretty indicative of my brain currently.

While August was a bit of a lower month for me, I did somehow manage to get a lot of reading done (there was no “somehow” to that, I read 99% of my time), reading a total of 11 books. Part of this was because I was doing a readathon, part of it was because my frame of mind just had me needing to read. The top books that I read were: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison, Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan, and A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. I’ve got quite the stack set up for September as well that I’m looking forward to. ***I am hoping to start bringing reading a little into the mix over here, nothing major as I have a whole book blog, but here and there might be nice, yes?***

Ok, so that’s me caught up. Tell me about you! How was your August? Are you September ready? Are you Autumn ready?