Mid Year Book Freakout Tag – 2020

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

Best Book you’ve read so far in 2020

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

Best Sequel you’ve read so far in 2020

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

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

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

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

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

Biggest Disappointment

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

Biggest Surprise

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

Favorite New Author (Debut or new to you)

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

Newest Fictional Crush

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

Newest Favorite characters

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

Book that made you cry

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

Book that made you happy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Binge-able Books/ Book Recommendations | Spring 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

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

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

American Royals by Katherine McGee

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

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

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?