September 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

I am loving fall so far and all the inspiration and motivation it’s giving me to keep reading 🙂 This month I read 11 books – while that’s not my highest of the year, I’m still very happy with that amount and really happy with the books themselves that I was able to complete! Without too much of an intro, let’s go ahead and get into the wrap-up!

This month’s quick stats:
11 books (3 audiobooks)
2,814 pages
9 authors (5 female)
2 nonfiction | 9 fiction
This year’s quick stats:
77 books (15 audiobooks)
19,832 pages
73 authors (37 female)
23 nonfiction | 54 fiction

Title: Golden State
Author: Ben H. Winters
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia
Pages: 319
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book takes place in a futuristic society where lying is among the very worst crimes a person can commit. We follow Lazlo, a member of this society’s “Speculative Service,” as he enforces the laws requiring citizens to tell the truth at all times.

My Thoughts: This is a WILD ride of a book… at first it seems clearly dystopian, then it turns into sort of a mystery/thriller, and then it erupts into complete chaos. I didn’t know who was good and who was bad, who and what I was supposed to believe, and I CERTAINLY didn’t know what to expect from the ending. Not sure I’m completely satisfied with how it wrapped up, but it had/has my mind reeling, and I really enjoy that. Aside from the ever-twisting plot, I really enjoyed reading about the nuances of this society – for example, finding out that fiction books are outlawed because of their obvious deviation from the true world, and that sarcasm is considered okay as long as all parties understand that the speaker isn’t deliberately trying to mislead the listener. Overall a great read, and I fully recommend to fans of dystopias, science fictions, and government conspiracies.

Title: Appalachian Book of the Dead
Author: Dale Neal
Genre: Metaphysical Thriller (?)
Pages: 250, DNF’d at 100
My Rating: 1 star
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
An ARC of this book was provided to me by SFK press, but I am under no obligation to review positively or otherwise. All thoughts are my own and are given voluntarily!

Brief Summary: This book has been described as a “metaphysical thriller,” as it starts out by telling the story of an outlaw escaping prison and disappearing into the woods in South Carolina, murdering the unlucky few who get in his way. The book then follows several different individuals living in the near vicinity, paranoid by the news of this escaped convict but otherwise trying to live their lives.

My Thoughts: I just could not get into this one… I was confused about the tone and vibe of the writing – very slow-paced and ominous, but no clear plot – and I didn’t care about or connect to ANY of the characters. I unfortunately DNF’d after 100 pages, which is something I have a really hard time doing, but my reading experience was that bad.

Title: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office
Author: Lois P. Frankel
Genre: Female Nonfiction
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This nonfiction book highlights “101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers,” and then offers advice and solutions to stopping them.

My Thoughts: The format of this book was enjoyable – each of the 101 sections/tips were short enough to easily digest, and it offered plenty of convenient stopping points for reading this book in small chunks. Most of the advice was pretty generic, but overall good. Some of it started to rub me the wrong way, however – her advice to women “with thin skin” and who find themselves getting overly emotional at work is to just “get over it”… really? That along with a few of the sections on personal appearance felt way over-simplified and a little outdated. Overall not life-changing, and I will not be re-reading or recommending in the future, but there are some helpful nuggets if the reader is open to some tough love.

Title: The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth
Author: Alexandra Robbins
Genre: Miscellaneous
Pages: 448
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This book explores “quirk theory,” or the idea that quirks and things that usually make us feel excluded early in life (like in high school) are exactly the traits that make us unique and successful later in life. The book follows seven individuals from different locations in the U.S. throughout one school year, going in-depth to their feelings and experiences – particularly how their quirks make them feel in relation to their peers and if there is anything they wish they could change about themselves or their situations. The book alternates between their stories and the author’s expression of different social theories, how they apply to each individual, and what it means for us as the readers and society as a whole.

My Thoughts: This book is really hard to summarize in just a few sentences because of just how in-depth it goes to each of the followed individuals’ lives, plus we get constant commentary from the author relating everything back to different psychological and social theories. It was really, really interesting, plus the seven different storylines made it feel like reading a fictional novel. I enjoyed seeing how each of the individuals’ lives played out, and I think I gained some insight and confidence that my own quirks should be celebrated and honed, not ignored. I would DEFINITELY recommend this book to high-schoolers or any individuals who are struggling with feeling excluded from their peers.

Title: The Last House Guest
Author: Megan Miranda
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This thriller follows Avery, a young, 20-something woman living in Littleport, Maine and working as a property manager for some of the vacation homes. It follows two timelines, the first being the summer of 2017 when Avery’s best friend Sadie is found dead in the water near her family’s vacation home, and the police are questioning everyone near to her to find out whether it was an accident, a suicide, or a murder. The other timeline is one year later, as Avery is dealing with the closing of Sadie’s case and wondering whether the police might have gotten it wrong.

My Thoughts: As an audiobook, I generally enjoyed this story. The setting of Maine gave it a great small-town, beachy vibe that was both fun and a little creepy. I can’t say that anything in the story was particularly great or terrible – a pretty run-of-the-mill thriller. I didn’t predict the ending, but that’s not usually my strength or my goal when reading thrillers. I love to just absorb the story and twists as they come – but some reviews I’ve seen say that the twists were obvious, and veteran thriller readers may find this story unsatisfying. If you’re a fan of Megan Miranda, I think this one is worth a try, but if you require huge plot twists or over-the-top storylines, you may want to skip this one.

Title: The Art of Fielding
Author: Chad Harbach
Genre: Sports/Contemporary
Pages: 512
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This book mainly follows the players on a midwestern collegiate baseball team throughout the senior year of team leader Mike Schwartz and junior year of talent standout Henry Skrimshander. Although baseball takes up a majority of their time, and therefore makes up a lot of the book’s plotline, the characters also deal with plenty of other issues including plummeting self-esteem, messy relationships, and uncertainty about the future.

My Thoughts: Whew… this book. There is so much more than meets the eye. First of all, I will say that although this book centers heavily around baseball, I do not think you have to be a sports fan in order to enjoy it. But if you ARE a baseball fan, you will enjoy it that much more. These characters are SUPER complex and the story is long enough that we get very intimate with their thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, and uncertainties, which I think makes the story extremely relatable and easy to become invested in. Since my husband was the one who originally recommended this book to me, I think I can safely recommend it to both men and women – anyone who is looking to dive into an emotional story with lots of ups and downs, not unlike what we all go through in life in general.

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Fantasy
Pages:418
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This fantasy novel follows Karou, a college student who spends half of her life in the human world, attending art classes and struggling with a nagging ex-boyfriend, and half of her life in a fantastical world, running errands for her part-human-part-animal father figure and receiving wishes in return – one of which she used to have her hair permanently grow in a bright blue color. She doesn’t know much about this other world, or her own past for that matter, and suddenly things start happening in and around this fantastical world that cause her to start questioning more deeply, which ends up putting her in danger and leaving her wondering if she should abandon the other world to live safely as a human, or risk everything to get the answers she’s been looking for.

My Thoughts: I’ll start out by saying I am NOT a fantasy reader. I prefer my fiction realistic, but I have seen this book and Laini Taylor often highly rated and recommended by members of the book community, so I decided to give it a try – and I really enjoyed it! I appreciated that I could still identify with the main character as a person (not just a mysterious magical being), and the fantastical world/magic system was complex enough to make for a compelling and satisfying story while also staying simple enough that I could follow and understand it all. I enjoyed the entire story, including the ending, and although I don’t think I will be continuing with this series nor will I only be reading fantasy from now on, I’m glad that I branched out and overall enjoyed my reading experience with this one. 

Title: Maybe in Another Life
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 342
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book starts with main character Hannah moving back to her hometown of Los Angeles after several years moving from city to city, job to job. On one of her first nights back, she is confronted with a turning-point decision: go home with her best friend after a night of drinking and dancing, or stay out with an old fling possibly wanting to rekindle their romance? The story then splits into two alternate realities, following Hannah as she lives out her life based on the two possible outcomes of this decision.

My Thoughts: I think the concept of alternate realities is really interesting, and I loved reading about both possible outcomes and the compounding effect of one seemingly simple and trivial decision in the main character’s life. It really makes you think about all of the pivotal decisions in your own life and where you might be had you chosen a different path (which I guess is equally exciting and terrifying, depending on your personal outlook). I don’t think any of these characters were overly compelling, and this is not my favorite TJR book to date, but it was a thought-provoking page-turner of a book and I was ultimately left extremely satisfied after reading it.

Title: Final Girls
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 339
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book follows Quincy, a woman who is twelve years removed from a traumatic life event where she was the sole survivor of a mass murder in a cabin in the woods. This puts her in a very small and exclusive group of women known to the press as “final girls,” something she shares with only two other women in the country. When one of the other final girls is found dead having committed suicide, and the other shows up suddenly at Quincy’s doorstep, Quincy is forced to dig up old memories and emotions she’d been repressing in an attempt to form a normal life after such an abnormal past.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this as my first Riley Sager read. The idea of uniting sole survivors from mass murders into this kind of “final girls club” is really intriguing, and that was enough to pull me through the first half of this book, which has very little thrill/mystery to it other than the backstories of all of the final girls. Once the twists and mysteries of the present time are revealed, it becomes more of your typical thriller and although it includes one of my least favorite plot devices – women with memory problems – I still enjoyed the ride and didn’t predict any part of the ending. So far I see why the Riley Sager hype is there and I’m excited to get to his subsequent books!

Title: After I Do
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 336
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: In this book, a couple that has been married for 9 years finds themselves in a rut in their relationship – they are constantly fighting, resent each other over small things, and are just generally unhappy being together. They decide to take a one-year break from their marriage, during which they are free to explore other people and relationships and are not allowed to contact each other in any way. The goal is for each of them to re-evaluate the relationship and decide if they want to fight for their marriage or go their separate ways for good.

My Thoughts: As someone who is married, a lot of the elements of this book hit close to home – it’s super common for small, nitpicky items to add up and boil over into a huge fight if you can’t communicate before it gets to that point, and it’s definitely difficult to learn to love the other person past the honeymoon phase of the relationship. Other than the interesting ways this couple chose to deal with their issues, I didn’t find myself super invested in the relationship and rooting for one outcome or the other. The couple is very average – which is what they’re supposed to be – but it made the overall story kind of boring and forgettable.

Title: One True Loves
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This book follows Emma, a young woman who is celebrating her engagement to a man named Sam when she suddenly gets a phone call from her previous husband, Jesse, who has been presumed dead for 3 years. With this revelation that Jesse is still alive, Emma is caught in between her feelings for both men and wondering if it’s possible to love two people at the same time.

My Thoughts: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books are so unique and I always find the plots super interesting to think about. I mean, nobody can imagine losing the love of their life early and having to move on to another relationship only to find out that the first person is still alive. However, with this book I just didn’t feel like I had enough time with the characters to be fully invested in any relationship. The story flips back and forth between current-day Emma and Sam, current-day Emma and Jesse, high-school Emma and Sam, and high-school Emma and Jesse – which are all relationships with completely different dynamics that make it really hard to sink your teeth into one before you’re whisked into another.


As I said in my October TBR, I am sooo excited to get to reading allll the thrillers this upcoming month. Let me know what you read in September and what you have planned for October!


October 2019 TBR | Reading the Most-Hyped Thrillers of the Year

October is almost here! Bring on the spooky décor, costume parties, and THRILLERS 😊 I’ve had a great start to fall so far and am super excited for Halloween and the holiday season coming up. In October, I definitely will be getting my thriller fix when it comes to reading, as my plan is to read some of the most-hyped thrillers that have come out this year!

In preparation for this TBR, I went onto Goodreads and made an Excel list of all of the thrillers I can think of with their respective ratings and number of ratings. Because I want to read the most-hyped books, I ordered them in order of NUMBER of ratings so that I know these have been the most-read out of all thrillers I could find or think of.

Most of these books I am planning on checking out from my library or listening to on Scribd – because of that, I’m not 100% sure which books I’ll have access to at any given time during the month, so my goal is to read 7 of the 10 listed below.

And lastly before getting into it, because these are all thriller/mystery books, I want to go into reading them without much knowledge of the plot so that I can be fully surprised by all of the twists and turns. Because of that, I don’t have any sort of synopsis to share for any of them! All I know is that lots of people have read and enjoyed them 😊

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

134,155 Ratings

4.05 Average Rating

Verity by Colleen Hoover

57,836 Ratings

4.38 Average Rating

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

57,621 Ratings

3.85 Average Rating

Recursion by Blake Crouch

29,581 Ratings

4.22 Average Rating

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

28,937 Ratings

3.93 Average Rating

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

24,042 Ratings

4.03 Average Rating

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

23,657 Ratings

3.98 Average Rating

Run Away by Harlan Coben

23,000 Ratings

4.08 Average Rating

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

21,627 Ratings

4.03 Average Rating

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

19,100 Ratings

3.84 Average Rating

If you love thrillers… PLEASE let me know which ones of these you have read and what has been your favorite! Also, let me know if there are any thrillers you think are missing from my list 🙂

Happy reading!


Contemporaryathon TBR | September 2019

Well, well… better late than never when it comes to planning a readathon TBR, am I right? I’ve decided to partake in this month’s round of Contemporaryathon (a week-long readathon hosted by I think 4 different Booktubers) mainly because I can fit the challenges in with a few books I’m already planning to read by the end of this month!

Contemporaryathon starts TODAY and goes through this Sunday, September 29th. Still time to join in if you’re interested! Here is a link to one of the announcement videos, in which you can go deeper into the challenges, get some recommendations, and be linked to the three other co-hosts.

Contemporaryathon Round 5 Challenges

  1. Read a 2019 release
  2. Read a book with yellow on the cover
  3. Read a book that is diverse from your own experiences
  4. Read a book with an illustrated cover
  5. Read a book with a dark or hard-hitting storyline
  6. Read a book with plants on the cover
  7. Read a book that is beloved by someone in the book community (plus shout them out!)

The rules of this readathon are pretty relaxed – the only real requirement is to read “contemporary” books, which in itself can even be up for interpretation – but essentially any book without any speculative or fantastical elements. You can choose to follow none or all of the challenges, and you are free to double- (or triple- or quadruple-…) up on challenges if you find books that hit multiple!

My Contemporaryathon TBR

I’m choosing to keep my TBR fairly attainable this week with 3 books. I did manage to get these to cover all 7 challenges, thanks to one book that actually hits 4 of them. See below for the books I chose and what challenges they each fulfill!

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

This book was recommended and lent to me by my mother-in-law, which is a big reason I’m trying to prioritize it. Nothing I hate more than borrowing something from someone and accidentally never returning it!

Challenges Covered:
2 – Read a book with yellow on the cover
5 – Read a book with a dark or hard-hitting storyline – I believe this book is all about a school shooting – a highly sensitive topic that I’m sure will be VERY hard-hitting and emotional. I wouldn’t be surprised if I shed a few tears…


One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

On top of helping me fulfill one last contemporaryathon challenge, this book will also round out my goal to read all of TJR’s books. Be on the look out for a post likely early next year ranking all of them!

Challenges Covered:
6 – Read a book with plants on the cover


Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I was not originally planning on reading this book this month… but things just kind of worked out – it fulfills 4 readathon challenges, was available immediately at my library, and WAS on my someday TBR – so I’m glad to knock it out!

Challenges Covered:
1 – Read a 2019 release
3 – Read a book that is diverse from your own experiences – this book features a male-male romance. Not only is that not something that I have experienced in my life (obviously, as a woman), but it’s also not something I think I’ve ever read in a book before!
4 – Read a book with an illustrated cover
7 – Read a book that is beloved by someone in the book community – This is extra fitting as this book is HIGHLY beloved by ChelseaDollingreads, one of my favorite Booktubers, one of the hosts of this readathon, and who I would consider to be one of the biggest consumers of the contemporary genre – if she recommends a contemporary, I expect it to be one of the best of its genre!


That’s it – like I said, keeping it reasonable this week! I’d love to know if you’re participating in Contemporaryathon this round and what you’re reading – if you’re not, let me know what you’re planning on reading the rest of September regardless!


DIY Floating Bookshelves

Today I want to branch out into something a little different for my blog – DIYs. Making things for myself and others, whether it be custom t-shirts, home décor, or miscellaneous arts & crafts, is something I have always loved to do and is definitely one of the biggest ways I find I can express myself creatively. Most of my ideas are inspired by other DIYers (s/o to Pinterest), but I figured I might as well document and share my own process off in hopes that it might inspire someone else to try making something themselves that they’d otherwise go out and purchase!

My first project was something I’d been envisioning in my home office since we bought our new house in April: wall-to-wall floating bookshelves. When I originally expressed this idea to my husband, he had a few concerns including the strength of the shelves – these are intended to hold books, after all, which are not exactly light. So I went ahead and did my research, found this helpful blog post from a couple making heavy-duty floating shelves for their kitchen, and modified it to fit my space and my needs. Below are the materials we used, steps we followed, and some pictures of the process!

Step 1: Determine Sizing and Location of Shelves

Originally, my idea was to have wall-to-wall, extra-thin floating shelves, as I thought this would be the most aesthetically pleasing. However, it didn’t take long to realize that logistically this wasn’t the best idea –  for a couple of reasons:

  • Plywood comes in 8-foot sheets. Anything longer and I wouldn’t get the seamless look I was going for across the front of the shelves, so we opted for 8-ft long shelves. This would leave a little space between the edge of the shelves and the edge of the wall (because my wall is 9.5 feet long), but would make the building process easier and the end product nice and seamless.
  • These shelves are intended to hold books – a lot of them. If I wanted them to be floating, they’d need to be much more than an inch thick or I’d risk them falling (or ripping) off of the wall. We decided on 4 inches of thickness as enough to hold all of my books and keep the building process relatively simple, because I could still use 2x4s and plywood as my materials. (Again, this idea was reinforced by this blog post, as they used 2x4s and plywood and used their shelves to hold kitchenware!)

With these decisions made, I used strips of painter’s tape to mark out each shelf out on my wall and make sure I liked the size and spacing of the shelves in my room. I highly recommend this step if you’re making any sort of large-scale shelves or other statement piece (like a gallery wall with picture frames, for example) because this gives you flexibility to move things around before you do any building or drilling into the wall! If the sizing or spacing looks off, you can adjust your plans accordingly.

Step 2: Find Studs and Design Wall Support Frame

The most common method for building and installing floating shelves is to do it in two parts: first, you have a “wall support frame” that mounts directly onto your wall first and consists of one long back piece and several smaller perpendicular supports you need to give your shelf strength and rigidity. Then, you have an “outer box” that slides nicely over the support frame and gives your shelves a clean, floating appearance. This next step is all about designing and building your wall support frame.

Wall Support Frame substeps:

  • Locate all of the studs on your wall that will intersect with your shelves. Mark them as a “mount to wall” location on the wall and copy the measurements onto a piece of paper. I went ahead and marked every single stud location that I found so that my shelves would have as much wall support as possible.
    • I ended up with 6 stud locations approximately 16 inches apart (which I believe is standard stud spacing, but always good to double-check with a stud finder!)
  • In between each of these “mount to wall” locations, determine where you want your perpendicular supports to extend out from the wall, and how far. It’s very important that these are between the “mount to wall” locations – if you overlap them, you won’t be able to drill into the wall into the stud because there will be a 2×4 in your way.
    • I decided to have 7 perpendicular supports: one directly in the middle of each of the “mount to wall” locations (five of those), and one on each end of the shelves.
    • I also decided to make these supports 8 inches long, which when added to the 1.5” back piece made my shelves stick out about 9.5 inches from the wall. How deep you want your shelves to be depends on what you plan on using them for!

Step 3: Design Outer Box

Again, the outer box is the piece that slides nicely over your wall support frame to hide all of the mounting bracketry and give your shelf a nice seamless, floating appearance. We decided to make ours completely out of ¼” plywood.

To design your outer box, you will need to determine three different sets of dimensions:

  • Top & bottom pieces – determined by the overall depth and length of your shelves.
    • Mine are 9.5 inches deep by 8 feet long.
  • Left & right side pieces – determined by the depth of your shelves and the height/thickeness of your perpendicular supports.
    • Mine are 9.5 inches deep by 4 inches tall.
  • Front side dimensions – determined by the height and length of your shelves.
    • Mine is 4 inches tall by 8 feet long.

Step 4: Buy Materials

With all of the sizing and measurements planned out, it’s finally time to go to the hardware store and buy your materials!

We ended up buying the following materials for TWO shelves:

  • 1 – 1/4″x4’x8′ sheet of plywood cut to the following sizes:
    • 4 – 9.5″x8′ (top and bottom pieces of outer boxes)
    • 2 – 4″x8′ (front pieces of outer boxes)
  • 1 – 1/4″x2’x2′ sheet of plywood cut into:
    • 4 – 9.5″x4″ (side pieces of outer boxes)
  • 2 – 2″x4″x8′ boards (back piece of wall support frames)
  • 2 – 2″x4″x8′ boards cut to the following sizes:
    • 14 – 2″x4″x8″ (perpendicular pieces of wall support frames)
  • 24 metal L-brackets
  • Small, medium, and large screws
  • Wood filler
  • 1 quart – gray paint (can also use stain or paint in any color)

Step 5: Build Your Shelves

I think the photos above are the most helpful for seeing how to assemble everything, but some notes on how I built these shelves:

  • For the wall support frame, we screwed the perpendicular support pieces directly to the back support piece with at least two medium-sized screws each, plus added two L-brackets to each perpendicular support. This isn’t necessarily required, but the L-brackets added some peace-of-mind that the perpendicular supports wouldn’t disconnect from the back support piece.
  • Also when assembling the wall support frame, we marked right on the wood where all of the “mount to wall” locations (or stud locations) would fall on the shelf. This will help remind you to keep those spots clear of perpendicular supports and L-brackets, but also will come in handy for mounting.
  • For the outer box, originally we were planning on leaving the inside completely open to slide over the support frame, but because the shelves are so long the plywood started bowing and becoming hard to work with. We just used some scrap pieces of wood to add some rigidity to the inside of the box in locations that wouldn’t interfere with the perpendicular supports.

Step 6: Mount Your Shelves

To mount your wall support frame, have one person hold the shelves level on the wall while another uses the “mount to wall” locations marked on your shelves to drill your support frame directly to the wall. We used three of the largest screws we could find per mounting location so that there was no risk of it ripping out from the wall.

Once your support frames are mounted, slide your outer boxes over the perpendicular supports and push them all the way until touching the wall. Then I recommend using some small screws to fasten the outer box to the support frame in a few locations so that it doesn’t slide itself out over time.

And that’s it! For us this was definitely a big project, but we had very few mistakes or road bumps thanks to all of our planning beforehand. I definitely think it pays off to take your time, double- and triple-check your measurements, and have a helping hand available (thanks, husband)!

This being my first DIY post, there’s a great chance that I missed a step or wasn’t very clear about something – please comment with any questions that I can answer or help clarify! I’m excited to keep doing projects and share my steps with the internet to hopefully help or inspire someone else to try their own DIYs. Let me know if you have any projects on your radar or if you’re more of a buyer than a DIYer!


August 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

I started out my September TBR post last week by saying how excited I am for it to be September and all of the exciting things I have to look forward to this fall! I’m sure I’m not alone in that love for fall activities and cozy fall weather – but August has definitely been a whirlwind, trying to cherish these last bits of summer while I still have them.

For those reasons, August was a bit of a slower reading month, and I only have 7 books to wrap up (4 of them were actually audiobooks, so that’s really telling of my reading habits!), but still a good reading month in itself and I definitely found some great reads to recommend. As usual, my reading stats and then mini-reviews for each book are below!

This month’s reading stats:
7 books (4 audiobooks)
1,171 pages
7 authors (4 female)
1 nonfiction | 6 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
66 books (12 audiobooks)
17,018 pages
61 authors (34 female)
21 nonfiction | 45 fiction

Title: Swapping Purples for Yellows
Author: Matthew Duffus
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 285
My Rating: 4 stars
This ARC was provided to me for free by SFK Press, but I am under no obligation to review positively or otherwise. All thoughts are completely my own and are posted on my own accord!

Brief Summary: This book follows the Sutherlands, your typical middle-class family with plenty of drama but trying to hold it together, if not for their own sakes but for everyone else’s. Alternating between Rob, the father and professor at the local university, Molly, the mother struggling with her identity and gambling issues, and their two teenage daughters, this slice-of-life story dives into each character’s thoughts, feelings, and problems over the course of an action-packed weekend.

My Thoughts: At the very least, I thought this was an entertaining slice-of-life story in which readers can find at least one character to relate to. At the most, though, I think this story is a real teacher of empathy and reminder that you never really know what is going on behind-the-scenes of someone else’s life. With the length of this story only spanning three days, you get such an in-depth view to all of the characters’ perspectives and nuanced situations that you can’t help but root for all of them and none of them at the same time. Do I think this book had such a profound message that I’ll be thinking about it every day for months to come? No, but I can appreciate a story that gets me out of my own head and into the shoes of a person/family with a life as complex as mine.

Title: The Unhoneymooners
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 2 stars

Brief Summary: This is a very popular contemporary novel that features an enemies-to-lovers romance plotline. Olive and Ethan are the maid of honor and best man in a wedding where every single OTHER person – including the bride and groom – gets food poisoning and becomes violently ill. Because of the illness, the bride and groom cannot attend their non-refundable honeymoon, so Olive and Ethan step up to redeem the trip – even though they hate each other.

My Thoughts: Like I said, this book is super popular and I’ve seen it hyped everywhere on the bookternet, and I wanted to love it. I actually think that if I watched this book as a movie, I’d love the light-hearted cheesiness of it, and I’d appreciate that it only took up an hour and a half of my time. But I listened to the 10-ish hour audiobook instead, and it just felt like a waste of my time. If you love rom-com books and are looking for a light summer read, this probably would be right up your alley! I just didn’t find anything great about it. Plus – I’ve lived in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, which is where these characters are from, and at first I thought it was cool hearing them mention places I know and have been to myself. But I don’t know, when the audiobook narrator mispronounces Mankato and Menards… it loses its charm pretty quick. Overall just not my cup of tea, and I will probably steer clear of rom-com books like this one in the future.  

Title: Gone
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Dystopia
Pages: 558
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This book, probably intended for a middle-grade audience, is a dystopia that follows a group of kids all under the age of 15 after every single adult instantaneously disappears. Nobody knows why it happened, where they went, or what they are supposed to do now that the kids are completely on their own.  

My Thoughts: I’ve said it before, but there is a special place in my heart for dystopias, no matter who they are intended for. I really loved the focus on kids in this one – no adult characters for us to follow even if we wanted to. The story was super intriguing and kept me turning the pages. I was disappointed in the middle and ending though – absolutely zero questions were answered. There are something like 5 more books in the series, each of them probably consisting of 500+ pages, and I just don’t want to have to read all of them to get to the bottom of the mysteries uncovered here. So I will not be continuing, but I would recommend this book to any dystopia-lovers ready to dive into the whole, long series.

Title: On the Island
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 328
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This contemporary novel alternates between perspectives of teacher/tutor, Anna, and student, T.J., the two victims of a tiny plane crash between islands in the Maldives on the way to T.J.’s family’s vacation home for the summer. When their pilot has a heart attack and dies on the way down, Anna and T.J. land in the water alone and eventually wash up onto shore with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. As they struggle to live on the island until the authorities can locate them, their relationship becomes possibly the most important factor in their survival.

My Thoughts: This is the second novel I’ve read by Tracey Garvis Graves (first was The Girl He Used to Know), and my second 5-star rating. I just love her books – her character development is amazing and I always end up caring so deeply for both characters in the relationship despite all of the flaws they inevitably have. This story particularly is also incredibly suspenseful – I spent every page wondering if Anna & T.J. were going to survive, and if they did, what was going to happen to their relationship. Can’t wait to keep on reading TGG’s books.

Title: Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
Author: Kerry Patterson, et. al.
Genre: Business/Nonfiction
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book is a non-fiction guide to identifying the vital behaviors that lead to any rapid and profound change, whether in an individual or organization. It teaches how to apply strategies for changing both thoughts and actions, making change not only possible, but inevitable.

My Thoughts: I always enjoy self-help-type books that offer real stories and case studies showing how the strategies being highlighted actually work in the real world, and this book definitely had a lot of that. I thought the information was simple and clear and presented in a helpful way. Definitely recommend to anyone looking to make changes happen on an individual or organizational basis.

Title: Forever, Interrupted
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book is about Elsie, a young woman whose husband is suddenly killed after only two weeks of being married. After his death, Elsie has to deal not only with her grief, but also with getting to know her mother-in-law who never even knew her son was in a relationship – let alone married. We alternate between reading about the early stages of Elsie and Ben’s relationship and Elsie’s present-day struggles.

My Thoughts: This book was HARD to rate! On one hand, it’s a really nice love story that we get to see develop between Elsie and Ben. But then we are constantly thrust back into the tragedy of his death, and those sections are really, really hard to read. Ultimately I think the fact that this book made me feel so much is a testament to the storytelling and writing, so it deserves a good rating – but readers should definitely know going in that the story is extremely sad.

Title: Jane Steele
Author: Lyndsey Faye
Genre: Classic Retelling
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This is a retelling of the classic novel Jane Eyre, centered around a character named Jane Steele. Though her life and personality are like Jane Eyre in many ways, there is one major difference – Jane Steele is a serial killer.

My Thoughts: I had some mixed feelings about this one. The things that I liked include the fact that Jane Steele is a fan of Jane Eyre, and even references the classic novel several times throughout the book. I thought it was a clever way to incorporate the old story and help me relate to the main character with our mutual enjoyment of Jane Eyre. I also ultimately enjoyed the story of Jane Steele’s life and particularly liked the ending. However, for a non-classic, I thought this book really dragged on. One of the benefits of being a classic retelling, in my opinion, is the option to keep the interesting parts/themes of an old story but take out all of the wordiness and unnecessary description that classics are known for. Also, I thought that the fact that Jane Steele was a serial killer ended up being a much less exciting and prominent part of the story than I expected. Some people may find that to be a positive, since there are many other key plot points that make the story unique, but it’s used as such an attention-grabber that I just expected it to be more of the focus. I still would recommend this story for lovers of Jane Eyre, but anyone else may want to skip it!


Let me know if you have read any of these books, if they are on your TBR, or what you are planning on reading this fall!


September TBR: Catching Up on my Physical TBR

Hello, September! And with that, hello FALL!

I have many reasons to be excited for fall this year – we live in a new state that should (hopefully) be warmer than the North Dakota/Minnesota falls I’m used to (glorified winters), I’m planning on attending LOTS of football games ranging from middle-school level all the way up to a couple of NFL games, and best of all, we’re having a baby around the end of November/early December!!

With all of this busy-ness happening in real life, I’m finding myself with much less time to devote to reading, and I don’t want to commit to a bunch of new books within a fun theme that I’ll inevitably fail to read and then feel indebted to for months to come (foreshadowing August’s wrap-up a little bit…)

So instead, I’m committing to September as a catch-up month for my physical TBR. Here’s a list of 12 books that I own physically and are my highest priority to finally get to. Some of them you may recognize from past TBRs, some are newish to me and I’m too excited to wait to get to, and some I have been pushing off but I really just need to finish them off. Let me know if you have a backlist of TBR books you’re still hoping to get to this year, and if any of you are joining me in making September a catch-up month!

Bonus – for the next 3-ish days, Jana at Reviews from the Stacks is running a giveaway on her blog to celebrate hitting her Goodreads reading goal! Definitely give her blog some love and enter the giveaway by commenting on her post here if you’re interested in winning a gift card!


My one ARC

Appalachain Book of the Dead by Dale Neal

Why I want to read it: This book comes out on September 3rd, and as usual with ARCS I’d love to get a review out on Goodreads and Amazon on or before that date. I’ve started this book already and have about 190 pages left – my opinion is still very much up in the air!

Brief Summary: This is a fictional book that’s been described as a “metaphysical thriller,” following many characters in the middle of nowhere questioning the location of a killer on the loose.

Books that have been on my bookshelf for FAR too long

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Why I want to read it: This is a book that has been recommended to me many times by my husband. It’s a hefty book based on sports, but I’m optimistic and excited to finally get into it.

Brief Summary: This fictional story follows members of a collegiate baseball team and other members of the college as their lives entertwine throughout the baseball season.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Why I want to read it: Leftover from my July (Reading Rush) TBR, this is one book I’m surprised I haven’t read yet. I read and enjoyed Outliers and am sure this one by Malcolm Gladwell will be worthwhile.

Brief Summary: This nonfiction book centers around the magical moment when a small idea or behavior crosses a threshold and becomes a massive phenomenon – how we can recognize that point and use it to our advantage in personal and business settings.

Hatchet by Gary Paulson

Why I want to read it: As did probably everyone else, I read this book in middle school and have very fond memories. I’d love to reread this one since it’ll be a short, easy read.

Brief Summary: Brian is a young boy and the sole passenger on a small plane when the pilot has a heart attack and the plane crashes. Suddenly Brian finds himself completely alone in the woods with nothing but a hatchet to survive.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

Why I want to read it: I bought this one last year as a recommendation from one of my favorite lifestyle/family bloggers, Jordan Page. Hoping it’s not too problematic and actually offers some good marriage advice.

Brief Summary: This nonfiction book suggests that wives play a huge role in ensuring a successful marriage and offers the advice needed to nurture and feed their husbands accordingly.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Why I want to read it: I bought this one on a whim from Barnes & Noble a while ago and it’s been taunting me from my shelves ever since. I have consistently found other books to knock it out of my priority list, but finally getting this one read will feel like a big accomplishment.

Brief Summary: I don’t know much about the plot of this book and actually don’t want to – but I believe it follows several different adults, couples, and families and how their lives entertwine.

A couple of thrillers by an author I’m dying to get to

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Why I want to read it: I haven’t read any Riley Sager yet, but obviously the bookternet loves his thrillers. I’m very excited to give this debut novel a try and make my way through all of his books!

Brief Summary: All that I really know about this one is that it centers around the idea of the “final girls” or sole survivors of horror movies.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Why I want to read it: Ditto. I’m also excited because both of these books are on Scribd, so could be easy audiobooks to squeeze in.

Brief Summary: Again, I know nothing about the plot of this book and would love to keep it that way!

August books I just didn’t get to

Golden State by Ben Winters

Why I want to read it: Plain and simple, this book looks right up my alley and I’m expecting to love it!

Brief Summary: This book is a science-fiction, alternate reality story based in a California-like society.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins

Why I want to read it: Started this one, really liked the intro and the format the book takes, very interested to see what other points it makes.

Brief Summary: This nonfiction book studies quirk theory, or the reason why some individuals are outcasted in school settings but just may be more set up for success in the future.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Why I want to read it: No strong pull to the story itself, but I’m very interested in this non-Harry-Potter JK Rowling read.

Brief Summary: This mystery/thriller is about a mysterious death in a small town – classic.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Why I want to read it: Fantasy is very outside of my comfort zone, so that’s why this one has been slipping for me. Not sure if I’ll end up loving it or hating it, but I’m willing to give it a try!

Brief Summary: I believe this is some sort of Romeo and Juliet-inspired fantasy story.


Bullet Journal Setup | 2019 Reading Trackers

I have always loved all things stationery – notebooks, planners, and lately looking at beautiful bullet journal spreads all over Pinterest and Instagram. I wanted to start one myself to have a place to keep my reading information that isn’t just an Excel spreadsheet – though we all know how much I love my spreadsheets, too.

At first I thought I’d wait to start a reading bullet journal until 2020, but then I figured there was no harm in trying it out yet this year – this way I can test out different trackers and art styles and hopefully have a few more skills come January!

It may not be much yet, but I wanted to share my first few spreads in the bullet journal. I have it updated through July and plan on keeping it updated throughout the rest of this year, possibly adding more spreads if I feel like something else is missing!

Spread 1: 2019 At-A-Glance

This first spread is something I see at the start of most bullet journals online – a very basic overview of the entire year. I think this is helpful to have as a reference to check dates and as a beginning to the bullet journal to indicate that it is for the 2019 calendar year.

Spread 2: 2019 Reading Challenge and Page Tracker

On this second spread I decided to test the waters on my illustration skills. I saw a bookshelf spread somewhere online and decided to modify it to track my progress against my new 2019 reading goal of 100 books. Each month has a designated color, and at the end of the month I will color in the number of books I completed that month. Hopefully by the end of the year all of the books will be colored in!

On the right side you’ll see my version of a page tracker. This helps me see with a quick glance how many days out of the year I have been reading. I wanted to try to incorporate a gradient system so that the darker the block is, the more pages I read that day. I don’t think this system is quite perfect, but I think it still looks aesthetically pleasing.

Spread 3: 2019 Reading Statistics

I love tracking reading statistics every month and throughout the year to see if I am favoring any genres in particular or what other trends emerge. This page is an easy way for me to keep a tally and make those comparisons without having to go into my spreadsheet and count everything up. If you’re also a statistics lover, take a look at my Mid-Year Reading Summary post for some pretty graphs with a lot of the same information!

At this point you may notice that I do not have any sort of over-arching theme for my bullet journal. I really wanted to focus on getting used to the materials, color combinations, and different writing/illustrating styles before committing to just one.

Spread 4: 2019 Books Completed

And lastly, my fourth spread is simply a list of all of the books I have completed so far this year. The spreadsheet I keep on my computer lists out each book’s genre, number of pages, Goodreads rating, and more – but this is a quick reference just to see the titles, authors, and dates completed.


That’s all I have so far – safe to say I’m already hooked. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with monthly spreads and trackers yet, because I think that functionality and practice are the two main goals for the rest of this year when it comes to bullet journaling.

BUT! I would LOVE to see any reading trackers or beautiful spreads you have done or have seen – please leave me links to check out for inspiration and for me to connect with different people as I start this fun new hobby!