A Cuppa Cosy Reads – July 2020

Somehow it is already the end of July. I have no idea where this month has gone (ok, ok- I do), but here we are. I didn’t expect to read as much as I actually did, but I managed to read a total of 8 books (7 physical and 1 audio). I enjoyed most of the books that I did read and gave out an average rating of 3.8. Short introductions aside, let’s get into what I actually did read. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Purchase) 4/5 Stars This is NOT the book to read if you are worried about the pandemic, but it is worth it to read at some point. In Station Eleven we follow a cast of characters in a Shakespeare (and classical orchestra) troupe as the world has succumbed to a surprise flu pandemic. Following a current and pre pandemic timeline we unravel the story of what happened and how the world has changed. I really loved this book and greatly enjoyed reading it, even if it was a bit surreal at times given the current state of things. Would definitely recommend adding to your list. 

The Book Shop by Penelope Fitzgerald (Purchase) 3/5 Stars I don’t really know how to wrap my thoughts up on this shorter story. In The Bookshop we follow a young women who attempts to open up a bookshop in a town that quite decidedly doesn’t want one. It’s a story of a woman fighting against “the institution” of those above her in both society and politics to try and follow her passion. Overall, I found this to be OK. It’s incredibly melancholic from the setting to the characters, everything feels a bit depressing. With that being said, it’s a quick read as it’s so short, so you won’t be feeling dejected for too long. 

Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr (this was part of a collection of two of his essays) NR I’ve been wanting to read some of MLK Jr’s words for myself (rather than relying on the twisting snippets that are being doled out) to continue on my own personal learning. In this small Penguin Modern Classics, we get two of his works, the first being his Letter from Birmingham Jail and the second being The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life. I don’t think I have to say much about this, but just that it was incredible to actual read his words in the context they were originally in. I’ve heard so many quotes pulled from Birmingham Jail, that his Complete Life speech was a little bit more incredible to read. You can hear King speaking in your mind as you read his words and his eloquence was unparalleled. 

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus (Purchase) 3/5 Stars After the “seriousness” of the first few books I picked up, I really craved something light. Something I didn’t have to focus too hard on, that was almost juvenile in its nature, and that didn’t have any deeper meaning buried under the base text. Enter One of Us is Lying. I’ll put this book like this (and then move on) – if you are looking for (or enjoyed the show) Pretty Little Liars, but without being dragged out beyond needing with extra outlandish twists, then this is the book for you. You’ll get all your answers in a quick 300 or so pages and then you can move on! I loved Pretty Little Liars (overall- obviously I had issues here and there) and this story is a {very} similar premise. 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Purchase) NR Another book that has been highly recommended and on my to read list for a while this is a nonfiction, almost autobiographical letter from a father to a son. Coates touches on his childhood and reasons as to why/how he grew up the way he did, as well as how he shifted his own parenting. He touches on the current state of affairs, what racism looks like today, as well as micro aggressions and things that he has experienced being a black man today. The first part of his section was hard to read, but I found this book, as a whole, one of those enlightening books that changes your perspective. There were little things that I knew, but didn’t know and things that got my brain going and led me to explore some other areas. Overall, I highly recommend reading this one. 

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (Purchase) 5/5 Stars I didn’t know entirely what to expect with this concluding novel, but man it exceeded whatever those unsure expectation were. This explosive third book left me devoid of words and emotions in the best way possible. I didn’t realize that I would become so ensnared in the world and with the characters, but I LOVED this trilogy. I can’t wait to continue reading more of Sanderson’s work. 

A Place Called Waco: A Survivor’s Story by David Thibodeau (Purchase) NR As I’m writing this up, I am still currently listening to this, though I will be done when this post goes up, and it’s an interesting listen. We watched the Waco “docu-series” that came out and it just really had me intrigued to hear directly from the people who were there. What happened? What led to this federal siege of a compound? What was going through each sides mind as the situation rapidly derailed and then ended tragically? Obviously, this is just David Thibodeau’s side of the story (this was what my library had available first), but I will also be hearing the hostage negotiators side as well. It’s been interesting to listen to.  

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell (Purchase) 4/5 Stars So…I read this book in a day and you totally could do. The Family Upstairs follows a young lady who has recently found out that she has inherited a house and all of the history that comes with it. In this she discovers the tragic events that occurred and the real nature of who she is and her own history. If you are wanting a domestic thriller that is easy holiday reading, this is the book for you. 

And finally, I am currently reading Maya Angelou’s poetry collection, Celebrations (purchase). I’ve been making my way through these starting with reading one first thing in the morning and it’s been such a beautiful way to start the way. Maya Angelou just resonates this almost post inner turmoil peace in these poems and it’s just been a truly calming read. 

Those are the books that I’ve read in July- quite an interesting collection I will say. I’ve got quite the stack picked for August, although lately it seems like my mood (and my mental state) seems to be dictating a lot more of my reads than anything else. What was your favorite book that you read in July? Have any of the ones that I’ve read stood out to you? 

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?