A Cuppa Cosy Reads – April 2022

It is once again time for another reading wrap up! Where is the year going? It feels odd to say that we’ve reached the end of April, it feels like it’s flown by but also gone so slowly. April was…a month for us. We were basically out of the game for two weeks- between catching the Flu, family visiting, and then traveling it definitely hampered some of my reading. I feel like the month started off…average but got a bit better reading wise by the end. I read a total of 7 books and gave an average rating of 3.25. 

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper 3.5 Stars In The Wolf Den we are following a group of girls as they navigate a hard life of slave prostitution in Pompeii. Highs and lows and fighting for their own freedom, it’s a mix of a story. I have to say- I did enjoy this book partly because it’s very “day in the life” of an era we don’t get to see much from, and partly because we don’t like any single character. These girls live a hard life and make seemingly impossible choices just to move forward. 

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley 3 Stars In this third novel by Lucy Foley we are following a young girl who is trying to escape her own life and by doing so, stumbles into a mystery her brother has been investigating. I’ve got to say, while Lucy Foley can write a very well done “locked room” mystery/thriller…it’s become almost formulaic in a sense. I wasn’t too impressed with this one, much preferring her other two. I don’t know if I’ll continue on with her books or not. 

Neon Gods by Katee Robert 3 Stars I finally jumped on this craze (from last year, I think? Not sure) and while it didn’t disappoint, it also didn’t overwhelm. A Greek G-d retelling, this modern take on mythology delivers it all, including quite a bit of smut. However, it also didn’t provide or add anything new, just an easy going easy to read smutty novel. Which isn’t a bad thing every once in a while. 

Eternal Life by Dara Horn 3 Stars After reading and loving (and highly recommending) People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn, I decided to go back and read some of her backlist novels. Eternal Life follows a young woman who makes an obvious, but impossible choice and, because of it, will never die. Full of heart, life, and death, this book is short but powerful. Some truly incredible thoughtful moments that I really enjoyed. 

Wahala by Nikki May 3 Stars Wahala follows a group of friends at various stages of life as they come together, fall apart, and what happens when a newcomer who may not have the best intentions joins the group. Another easy-to-read thriller of sorts that I enjoyed but wasn’t overwhelmed by. 

The City of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 4 Stars Imagine my extreme joy when I found out that my all-time favorite author had a new book posthumously published. No words. This is a collection of short stories that are much darker and more sinister than anything I’ve read of his previously. All the stories run along the same current as his famous Shadow of the Wind quartet, taking place in Barcelona and are written in that beautifully descriptive way. 

Nazis Knew My Name by Magda Hellinger and Maya Lee No Rating This was my final read of April and what a way to end the month. Magda arrived on the second transport to Auschwitz and survived not only being a prisoner in the camp, but also serving as a functionary- a leader of sorts, a go between with the prisoners and the SS. She saw it all, the move from Auschwitz I to Auschwitz II- Birkenau, the creation of the crematoria, the medical experiments, the death marches, and through it all she somehow kept her spirit, kept moving forward, and used her spirit, position and network to save countless lives. It was truly incredible to read.

And that wraps up April in reading! I already feel like May is off to a better start, after doing a little library run, and evaluating what I want to read right now. How was your reading month? Any new favorites?

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – June 2021

Somehow it is the end of the month already! At halfway through 2021, how did THAT happen? I feel like this year, unlike last, is flying by. So many things to get done and not nearly enough time to do them, and that includes reading all the books I want to read this year! We’ll be talking through some of those next week when I do the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag, BUT this week we are focusing on the books that I’ve read in the month of June. Overall, I read a total of 11 books with an average rating of 3.46.

Let’s get into then, shall we?

Anne of Green Gables, the Graphic Novel Adapted by Mariah Marsden (PURCHASE) 4 Stars This was just darling. Whether you’re familiar with the story of Anne or not, this was a lovely adaptation that I enjoyed in an afternoon on the porch with a cup of tea. 

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M Danforth (PURCHASE) 3 Stars Ah this book, where do I begin? In this book you are, at the heart, following a school/parcel of land and its…questionable haunting activities. Set in two timelines, one when the school was open and one in present day when a movie is being filmed about the goings on at the school and a cast of about 6 women at the heart of the story. I enjoyed the premise and even the set up (a book about a movie about a book), BUT I think this could have greatly benefited from being a duology. One book to the past timeline and the happenings at the school, and a second book about the present-day filming and hauntings. When smashed together in one book it felt a bit…rushed and not quite fleshed out fully. 

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (PURCHASE) 3.5 Stars This one is a conflict in my own head over the rating. In this story we are following a young woman who has recently become the ambassador to a foreign empire. From the moment she lands she is thrust into political upheaval as the empire struggles against itself AND a murder mystery she must solve before she is killed next. I really loved this book after about 150 pages. At one point I thought this book might be a bit too political (which is saying A LOT), but once I gained an understanding off the underlying speech, and the book narrowed down its’ focus, the story became really enjoyable. 

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (PURCHASE) 4 Stars Well, this was just the quaintest little story. In The Thursday Murder Club, we are following a small retirement community and 4 of its 70 yr. old + residents as they attempt to solve a series of murders. Let me tell you, the plot is OK, but the characters are classic and will keep you going through the story. 

The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker (PURCHASE) 5 Stars This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I’ll just leave it at…it did not disappoint. I love that our characters were pushed farther, new characters were introduced (on all sides), old characters came back, the world widened, and every single character was confronted with their worst possible selves. It was brilliant. It also, once again like the first one, was left in a way that could welcome yet another OR could be finished. I’m good either way. 

Banned Book Club by (PURCHASE) NR This was a story about a young girl in South Korea who attends college in the hopes of studying literature. What she founds is an underground resistance movement of other young people who want to truly learn about the world around them, beyond the government propaganda. What follows is a series of clashes with government inspectors and employees as the students fight back more and more. This was such a good and important read and I highly recommend it. It’s based on real instances, though specifics have been changed to protect individuals. 

Answered Prayers by Truman Capote (PURCHASE) 2 Stars I consider myself a fan of Truman Capote. I loved In Cold Blood and Summer Crossing and enjoyed Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I had heard this book referenced repeatedly in Plain Bad Heroines as a muse, so I decided to pick it up. Unfortunately, I found this to be the bitter, intoxicated ramblings of a man at the edge. I know the history of it (he started it before he found fame, re wrote it after In Cold Blood and other stories, and ultimately never finished it) and found the introduction to be quite helpful in understanding the chapters, BUT that did not change my overall reading experience and opinion, which was decidedly NOT good. 

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (PURCHASE) 3 Stars This book is…tough. I think it’s important to understand the controversy that surrounds the book itself currently. TJ Klune has mentioned that he had a loose idea of the plot, but then took quite a fair amount of inspiration from the 60’s sweep (referring to the Residential Schools for Indigenous People) as well as various other events that had people be “rounded up” and ostracized into boarding facilities for being “different”. So, we need to acknowledge that this book is steeped in some very real pain and trauma, and we need to learn about what happened with the residential schools, as well as what happened with ICE detentions and other “round up” situations. HOWEVER, I think that this book being told from the perspective of a “government worker” who believes he is doing the best for the kids and seeing him change his perspective, for so much of the story to be steeped in this “feel good” and “be kind and accepting” is also important to note. My good reads review has SO MUCH more information and thoughts and can be read <a href="http://<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45047384-the-house-in-the-cerulean-sea&quot; style="float: left; padding-right: 20px"><img border="0" alt="The House in the Cerulean Sea" src="https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1569514209l/45047384._SX98_.jpg&quot; /></a><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45047384-the-house-in-the-cerulean-sea">The House in the Cerulean Sea</a> by <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5073330.T_J_Klune">T.J. Klune</a><br/> My rating: <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4070176770">3 of 5 stars</a><br /><br /> I think it’s important to note a couple of things about this book, so this might be a bit longer than my normal reviews. <br /><br />First off, we must address where the inspiration comes from for the story. TJ Klune has talked about the fact that he had a character and a rough idea for the story, but it became fully developed as he learned about the 60’s sweep and looked at a variety of different residential schools, ICE facilities, and other detainment/assimilation places. While I would not necessarily critique where authors get inspiration from (as that would be futile as books have been written about a variety of different traumatic events), I think it’s important to understand the history of residential schools and recognize that there is a very real, very current trauma surrounding the inspiration for this story. <br /><br />However, we should not immediately brush the book aside because there are A LOT of excellent conversations had in the story, and an over arching commentary/feeling about kindness and difference. There is something to be said for framing the story from a government workers perspective, a pencil pusher in so many words, who realizes that maybe his own opinions, what he thought was best and right, isn’t in fact what is best and right. <br /><br />It’s also important to note that while the “orphanage” did feel very much like it’s real life equivalent and there wasn’t quite a…”happy ending” beyond what was presented (and what we would have probably all preferred to see), that it was not directly representative of what it drew inspiration from, and yet still realistic in that change doesn’t come about immediately and in the way we want or think is fair. <br /><br />Ultimately, anyones thoughts and commentary on this book are their own and are valid in their own way. <br /><br />While I am rating this book a solid 3 Stars, I can see why/how it earned such a high rating. The story is heartwarming and feel good. If you are concerned about the inspiration then do some additional reading and learning about the 60’s sweep, residential schools, and the trauma of the Indigenous peoples and First Nations (as I will be doing). <br/><br/> <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/41246937-a-cuppa-cosy">View all my reviews</a>" data-type="URL" data-id="<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45047384-the-house-in-the-cerulean-sea&quot; style="float: left; padding-right: 20px"><img border="0" alt="The House in the Cerulean Sea" src="https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1569514209l/45047384._SX98_.jpg&quot; /></a><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45047384-the-house-in-the-cerulean-sea">The House in the Cerulean Sea</a> by <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5073330.T_J_Klune">T.J. Klune</a><br/> My rating: <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4070176770">3 of 5 stars</a><br /><br /> I think it’s important to note a couple of things about this book, so this might be a bit longer than my normal reviews. <br /><br />First off, we must address where the inspiration comes from for the story. TJ Klune has talked about the fact that he had a character and a rough idea for the story, but it became fully developed as he learned about the 60’s sweep and looked at a variety of different residential schools, ICE facilities, and other detainment/assimilation places. While I would not necessarily critique where authors get inspiration from (as that would be futile as books have been written about a variety of different traumatic events), I think it’s important to understand the history of residential schools and recognize that there is a very real, very current trauma surrounding the inspiration for this story. <br /><br />However, we should not immediately brush the book aside because there are A LOT of excellent conversations had in the story, and an over arching commentary/feeling about kindness and difference. There is something to be said for framing the story from a government workers perspective, a pencil pusher in so many words, who realizes that maybe his own opinions, what he thought was best and right, isn’t in fact what is best and right. <br /><br />It’s also important to note that while the “orphanage” did feel very much like it’s real life equivalent and there wasn’t quite a…”happy ending” beyond what was presented (and what we would have probably all preferred to see), that it was not directly representative of what it drew inspiration from, and yet still realistic in that change doesn’t come about immediately and in the way we want or think is fair. <br /><br />Ultimately, anyones thoughts and commentary on this book are their own and are valid in their own way. <br /><br />While I am rating this book a solid 3 Stars, I can see why/how it earned such a high rating. The story is heartwarming and feel good. If you are concerned about the inspiration then do some additional reading and learning about the 60’s sweep, residential schools, and the trauma of the Indigenous peoples and First Nations (as I will be doing). <br/><br/> <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/41246937-a-cuppa-cosy">View all my reviewsHERE. 

A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djeli Clark (PURCHASE) NR This is a novella that takes place just prior to A Master of Djinn and does a little bit of the set-up work for the book. As I’m writing this, I’m about halfway through Master of Djinn and I don’t know how necessary it is for you to read this first (which is why I read it first). It provides context and background, but not more than you would get throughout the book itself. 

No Exit by Taylor Adams (PURCHASE) 3.5 I don’t have too much to say about the next two books, except that they were solid thrillers. Neither was a standout, but I would say I think I probably got a bit more of the heart pounding thriller vibes from this one more. The premise is that there are strangers stranded in a snowstorm at a middle of nowhere rest stop. 5 Strangers and one little girl locked in a cage in a van. Where did she come from and who can you trust? 

The Guest List by Lucy Foley (PURCHASE) 3.5 Stars This was the last book that I finished in June, and it was a solid way to end the month. I enjoyed the premise and I definitely think this is a good twist and turn kind of thriller, but I didn’t feel the fear or ticking clock or atmosphere of the book as I did with No Exit. 

Finally, two final books to mention. I am currently reading A Master of Djinn by P Djeli Clark and while I’m not loving it per se (and I’ve stopped and started throughout), I’m not hating it either. We have also started reading some more chapter books with the boys, starting with the Magic Tree House Series. They’ve quickly fallen in to reading a chapter or two before bed and are excited to read more of them (the other night consisted of “one more chapter mommy”). 

So, that rounds up my month in reading! What about you? Any new favorites?

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – August 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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