May 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

As I foreshadowed in my last wrap-up, May was a sloooow reading month. The slowest I’ve had yet this year… only 4 books read, 2 of them being audiobooks. I think that’s okay, though – I’ve been extremely busy with moving and being pregnant and traveling and it’s nice to be able to slow down when I need to. I’m still WAY ahead on my yearly reading goal, and I’m motivated to pick it up back up again in June!

This month’s quick stats:
4 books (2 audiobooks)
536 pages
4 authors (4 female)
1 nonfiction | 3 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
37 books (4 audiobooks)
10,268 pages
34 authors (22 female)
13 nonfiction | 24 fiction

Title: Year of Yes
Author: Shonda Rhimes
Genre: Female Nonfiction
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This story is about TV writer Shonda Rhimes’s “Year of Yes” that she forced herself to take – that is, an entire year where she says yes to every opportunity that comes her way. Previous to this “Year of Yes,” she felt stuck in a rut, succeeding professionally but failing in all other parts of her life. Once she started saying yes to parties, events, and speaking engagments – ESPECIALLY the ones she was afraid of attending – her life changed for the better, making her a happier and healthier person overall.

My Thoughts: It’s hard to deny that this book is entertaining. Shonda is a renowned TV writer, after all, so she knows how to make stories exciting and dramatic and funny. What makes this memoir different from so many that I’ve read is the fact that it covers a very short period of her life – only one year, with a few backstories and follow-ups when necessary. This really makes it so that only the most impactful stories made the book – no long, dragging childhood stories or tales about her struggling as a writer. What I also really enjoyed about this book is the variety of “yes”es – it wasn’t JUST about saying yes to opportunities, which I think is obvious and overused. She highlighted saying yes to family time, saying yes to taking care of yourself, and saying yes to saying no. All of those topics I found particularly interesting and, more importantly, helpful! If you’re a memoir person or you feel like your in somewhat of a rut in your life, I’d recommend giving this one a go, and I think the self-narrated audiobook only added to the effect!

Title: The Sun is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 344
My Rating: 2 stars

Brief Summary: This book takes place over the span of one single day. Daniel and Natasha are two strangers living in New York City who meet and instantly feel an undeniable connection. The problem is that the timing of their meeting is totally wrong – Daniel is preparing for an important interview with a college representative to pursue a career he has no interest in, while Natasha is fighting a battle for her family who is facing deportation back to Jamaica the next day.

My Thoughts: I wanted to love this one… but between the slow pace, choppy chapters, and unrealistic (in my opinion) love story, it was just not for me. I never felt fully invested in the characters or the story and also didn’t particularly love the ending. I really would only recommend this book if you enjoy overly-cheesy insta-love stories.

Title: Radio Silence
Author: Alice Oseman
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This book is told from the perspective of Frances, a girl who spends most of her time studying, illustrating, and listening to her favorite YouTube show/podcast called Universe City, narrated by an anonymous character named Radio Silence. When Frances is offered the opportunity to illustrate for the show, she finds out who the anonymous creator is and realizes how much their lives (pasts and futures included) really relate.

My Thoughts: At the end of the day, I really can’t say this book was overly memorable for me. I enjoyed the story and the characters, but nothing happened that made me enjoy or dislike anything specific about it. I think I may be a little too old to relate to the struggles of preparing for college (even though I was going through it only 6 years ago), which I think is the main aspect most lovers of this book connect with. It is possible that if I had read it physically, as opposed to listening to the audiobook, I would have enjoyed my own pacing and voicing more, so I may try to reread sometime in the future if I continue hearing glowing reviews!

Title: The Outsiders
Author: S.E. Hinton
Genre: Classic
Pages: 192
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This classic novel is about a boy named Ponyboy who has a close-knit group of brothers and friends who spend their time going to movies, hitting on ladies, and feuding with rival teens (Socs) from the other side of town. One night some members of his crew take things a little too far and Ponyboy finds himself on the run, fending for himself and growing up extra quickly.

My Thoughts: I did not read this book in school like many of my friends did growing up, so I never understood the jokes or references commonly made to it – “Stay gold, Ponyboy,” for example. But now I have, and I’m so glad! This story was touching and emotional and a quick read, so really no reason not to pick it up.

4 books may not be my best reading month, but it’s still something. I’m thankful for audiobooks making long, work-related road trips more enjoyable and putting me closer to my goals. I definitely have some higher reading goals for June through the rest of the year! How are you doing 5 months into the new year?

April 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

Well, well… no, the title of this post is not a typo. This is my April wrap-up… being posted at the end of May. April was a WHIRLWIND of a month, and here’s why:

  1. On April 1st my husband started a new job, for which we relocated to a new state. With that came all of the house buying/selling fun and packing/moving/unpacking wonderfulness. The good news is that I LOVE our new house and at this point we’re about 95% unpacked and settled!
  2. At the very end of March, my husband and I found out that I’m expecting! So on top of all the moving business, I personally struggled with some extreme exhaustion and a little bit of morning sickness.

All that to say that April was a pretty slow reading month and an even slower blogging month. I did still manage to get through 6 books, which I think warrants its own wrap-up. Continue reading to see the six books I read and my thoughts on them, and come back on Monday for my May wrap-up!

This month’s quick stats:
6 books (1 audiobook)
1,114 pages
6 authors (5 female)
1 nonfiction | 5 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
33 books (2 audiobooks)
9,732 pages
30 authors (18 female)
12 nonfiction | 21 fiction

Title: Those People
Author: Louise Candlish
Genre: Thriller/Mystery
Pages: 282
My Rating: 3 stars
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Thanks to NetGalley and SFK Press for providing me with this eARC in return for an honest review!

Brief Summary: This thriller is about several neighbors on one street who are forced to deal with a new couple moving in down the road. The new couple is causing serious disturbances throughout the neighborhood with their loud metal music blasting every night, their used car business taking up valuable street parking space, and the eyesores created by their home renovations – which do not appear to be quite up to code. It seemed only a matter of time before someone got hurt, but when an innocent person ends up dead in an accident on the new home owners’ property, everyone in the neighborhood finds themselves looking guilty.

My Thoughts: I was SO intrigued by this story and the beginning of the book had me absolutely hooked. I loved the alternating perspectives between each of the neighbors and the alternating timelines before and after the accident though police interviews and first-person narratives. It really showed the neighborhood dynamics well and exposed the issues outsiders don’t often see between neighbors and family members. I was intrigued by the mystery, but it became a little convoluted because of how many characters were followed and how many of them realistically could have been involved in the accident. (I suppose it makes for a good mystery to have multiple likely subjects, but literally everyone had a motive and an opportunity here, which then had the inverse effect – no one stood out as guilty).

The reveals in this thriller seemed underwhelming to me. This could have been due to the fact that there were multiple, which again is usually a good thing in thrillers, but in this case left me feeling like I needed more closure in the end. Maybe a reread of this one would help some of the details and intricacies of the mystery fall into place, but I probably won’t be picking it back up for a while.

Title: Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell
Genre: Classic
Pages: 141
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This classic may not need much of an introduction, but the synopsis of this story is that a farm full of animals decides to revolt against the farm owner (a human) and try to run the farm themselves. They determine all of these new rules for the farm including no animal shall kill another animal, all animals are equal, and above all else – two legs = bad, four legs = good. Eventually the farm politics get shuffled and some animals feel slighted by other animals’ actions, and the utopia that was their animal farm turns into a political mess.

My Thoughts: It’s exposed right in the introduction of the book that it is an allegory based on Communist Russia, and knowing that going in definitely gives the story some added depth. I do not consider myself a political person, so this story actually did a great job of making the political claims easier to understand and not so convoluted with political figures and parties. It’s a classic that I’m glad to have read because of its deeper meanings and implications.

Title: Girl Code
Author: Cara Alwill Leyba
Genre: Female Nonfiction
Pages: 143
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This is a female entrepreneur empowerment book at its finest. Cara is a super inspiring woman and this book draws inspiration not only from her successes, but several other girl bosses’ successes as well. Through interviews, storytelling, and even worksheet pages, this book aims to give you whatever motivation you need to do that thing you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t yet.

My Thoughts: Is anything in this book absolutely profound? No. I’m sure all of these points have been made in other books by other female entrepreneurs. I really liked the interviews with other women, though, because it allows the reader to get multiple perspectives and pull inspiration from whoever you connect with the most. It’s also a quick read, so you can get the information you need and get on with your life!

Title: Bring Me Back
Author: B.A. Paris
Genre: Thriller/Mystery
Pages: 291
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This thriller is about a man named Finn who is still struggling from the disappearance of his girlfriend, Layla, 12 years ago. Although Layla’s body was never found, the officials and those around him have all considered her dead. He’s not so sure, though, and suddenly signs start appearing all around him to make him think she’s still alive – and she wants to come back to him. Not only does he have to deal with his emotions related to her disappearance, he also has to consider how Layla fits into his life now, 12 years later.

My Thoughts: I was just saying I needed a really great thriller to get into, as all the recent ones I’ve been reading have been disappointing. Well, this one absolutely did it! I loved the premise, I loved the writing style and book format, and I really, really enjoyed the twist(s). I had a few theories about the ending, none of which ended up being true. Some veteran thriller readers MIGHT be able to crack the mystery here, but I thoroughly enjoyed being surprised and not seeing it coming. This is the second 5-star thriller I’ve read from B.A. Paris (I also loved Behind Closed Doors), and now I’m doubly excited to get to The Breakdown, her only other thriller, which I happily already own!

Title: Daisy Jones & The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book is a unique historical fiction following Daisy Jones & The Six, a fictitious rock and roll band from the 1970s. Told exclusively in interview format, each member of the band retells the story of the band’s rise to success in their own perspective.

My Thoughts: I have seen all of the hype surrounding this book, just like I had seen the hype before picking up Evelyn Hugo. In Evelyn Hugo’s case, it completely lived up to all of the hype and then some – it was an easy 5 stars. With Daisy Jones, although not a 5-star read for me, I can absolutely see why the hype is there just the same. First of all, the storytelling is so unique – the interview format provides insight to each of the character’s minds, but only as much as they’re willing to put on record. Plus, we have to deal with the inaccuracies of human memories – there are many instances of two characters’ memories conflicting with each other’s, which makes for a humorous but also realistic interview feel. The plotline itself is also intriguing, as everyone wants to know the behind-the-scenes and the making of successful musicians. I found some parts to drag just a little bit, and some of the characters less intriguing than others, which is why this book is ultimately only 4 stars for me. But for anyone with a particular interest in 70s music or feminist characters, I think this book knocks it out of the park. If I wasn’t convinced before, I’m now fully on the TJR train and will be reading every book she writes in the future and hopefully getting to all of her past works someday, too!

Title: Nine Women, One Dress
Author: Jane L. Rosen
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 257
My Rating: 2 stars

Brief Summary: This contemporary is about nine women in and around New York City who all end up, in one way or another, buying/wearing/borrowing the “it” dress of the season. (For clarification, the same dress design, not all the same physical dress).

My Thoughts: I was really excited for this one, as it was giving me major Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants vibes. I was simultaneously disappointed and relieved to find out its not (disappointed because I LOVE the Sisterhood, relieved because nothing can really live up to it).

In short, I did not enjoy this book. My biggest struggle was trying to keep track of all of the characters. There were so many different storylines happening and I didn’t connect with any of them. Think about it – 9 women is a lot to keep track of, let alone all of the side characters they’re each interacting with. The book wasn’t long enough to fully develop or wrap up every story, and they didn’t intertwine as much as I thought they would. Ultimately I felt dissatisfied and disappointed in the book and don’t think I would recommend it to anyone!

So that was April! Again, my May wrap-up will come on Monday – since the moving process and pregnancy are obviously ongoing, it was another slow reading month – but I can feel myself getting energy back and am excited to get back into the swing of things (reading and blogging included) in June!

Let me know if you read anything great in April or May – I really didn’t get a chance to read many blogs within the last couple of months either, so tell me your highlights 🙂

5 Books to Read if You’re Short on Time

You know what’s really fun? Watching Booktube videos or reading bloggers’ TBRs that consist of 20+ books in one month. Those people are incredible. But my monthly cap is right around 6-10 books, and I’m sure most people (non-readers) see even THAT amount and think it’s an outrageous number of books to get through. People are busy with jobs and kids (and Netflix) and often don’t have hours upon hours to devote to reading. If you’re looking for book recommendations but want to keep it quick, this list is for you: five of my favorite books with low page counts.

A Business Book

Title: Leadership and Self-Deception
Author: The Arbinger Institute
Pages: 180
My Rating: 5 stars

If I could recommend one book for all of my coworkers, bosses, and family members to read, it would be this one. Marketed as a business book, it does go into strategies to get more out of your team and become a better team player yourself. But the brilliance is in the fact that these strategies carry over into all parts of your life, from family to romantic relationships to one-off conversations with people you interact with every day. Plus, the book reads like a novel, with a main character learning these lessons right along with the reader, preventing it from sounding too preachy and also addressing some of the “what about in this situation?” questions you might find yourself asking. For anyone looking to improve themselves personally or professionally, I highly recommend this book.

A Classic Novel

Title: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
Pages: 197
My Rating: 4 stars

I’m not the biggest classics reader, but I’m trying to change that. I’ve always been nervous about them not living up to the hype, but in my opinion this one certainly did. It’s an entertaining story with many life lessons intertwined, and not over-explained or as wordy as some classic novels seem to be. If you’re dipping your toes into classics, I’d recommend starting with this one.

A Contemporary

Title: The Sense of an Ending
Author: Julian Barnes
Pages: 163
My Rating: 5 stars

This book caught me completely by surprise! I’d describe it as the adult version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower – very nostalgic in tone and deals with some hard-hitting subject matter. If you’re looking to completely shake up the way you view the world (and are prepared for a shocking ending), definitely give this book a try.

A Female Nonfiction

Title: Girl Code
Author: Cara Alwill Leyba
Pages: 143
My Rating: 4 stars

This is my most recent read on the list! I find that a lot of female nonfiction books to repeat the same information, some of it inspiring but most of it over-the-top and cliche. This book has a view of those moments, but the format makes for a quick read and with interviews from several girl bosses, you get a variety of perspectives. If you’re looking for inspiration to start a new job or try something you’ve never done before, this should do the trick!

A Thriller

Title: Behind Closed Doors
Author: B.A. Paris
Pages: 293
My Rating: 5 stars

I was trying to keep all of the books on this list under 200 pages, but I actually don’t know of any thrillers that meet that requirement. I’m sure they’re out there, but I haven’t read any of them! So for this list I’d rather recommend my favorite thriller for someone who doesn’t want to waste their time sifting through the mediocre. This book is terrifying because of how realistic it’s made out to sound, and really makes you wonder what you would do in the main character’s situation. And at under 300 pages, I’d still argue it’s shorter than most other domestic thrillers!

I would LOVE to hear if any of you have recommendations for short reads. Sometimes a quick book in the right genre is exactly what you need to get yourself out of a reading slump, sometimes you need to squeeze a short book into your goals for a particular readathon, and sometimes you’re just busy and don’t want to spend a week (or more) on a single book! Let me know your favorite book with the smallest page count.

March 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

March was another AWESOME reading month for me! So awesome that I read nearly the same number of books in March as I did in January and Feburary combined. Fingers crossed I can keep this momentum going!

A large contributor to the 13 books I was able to complete this month was Buzzwordathon, a week-long readathon during which I read 7 books. Instead of repeating my thoughts, here’s a link to my post recapping the 7 books I completed that week and what I thought of them! Spoiler: I think one of the books I read became my new favorite for the year, if not all-time 🙂

As for the other 6 books I completed in March, below are the mini-reviews starting with my least favorite (1 star… yikes) up to my two 5-star reads. Feel free to let me know how you’re doing on your reading goals so far this year and if you’ve read any of the books I list here!

This month’s quick stats:
13 books
4,192 pages
13 authors (6 female)
5 nonfiction | 8 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
27 books (1 audiobook)
8,618 pages
25 authors (14 female)
11 nonfiction | 16 fiction

Title: Not All Migrate
Author: Krystyna Byers
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 205
My Rating: 1 star
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Thanks to NetGalley and SFK Press for providing me with this eARC in return for an honest review!

Brief Summary: This book is about a man named Mark who has just lost his wife and two daughters in a car accident. When the autopsy report comes back, the doctors tell him that his wife had had an unknown drug in her system at the time of death. This prompts Mark to look into the drug, why his wife had been on it, and who had sold it or given it to her in the first place.

My Thoughts: Right off the bat, I was extremely intrigued by this book’s synopsis. Unfortunately, instead of being suspenseful or realistic in any way, this story was just all-around strange.

To start, we never get any information on what kind of man Mark was before losing his family other than the fact that he worked a lot of long hours at his corporate job. While it’s understandable that a tragedy like this would change him, it became unfathomable that his new personality or behaviors could ever resemble the hard-working family man he supposedly was before. All of the other characters in the book were even less-developed than Mark, so I wasn’t invested in any of them.

The second and biggest problem I have is with the book’s plot – Mark is supposed to be searching for answers about his family’s accident and the myserious drug his wife was on… but once he finds the drug, he becomes an addict himself and loses sight completely of his original goals. (That’s not a spoiler, this addiction part is essentially the entire book). I just didn’t get it, or believe it. With that said, while this book was very much NOT for me, it is possible that someone else could find it entertaining because of the out-of-the-box storyline and graphic drug experiences. I just warn that if you are looking for a traditional thriller, this is not it.

Title: He Will Kill You
Author: Charlie Gallagher
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 314
My Rating: 3 stars
Content Warnings: Domestic abuse, rape
Thanks to NetGally and Joffe Books for providing me with this eARC in return for an honest review!

Brief Summary: Told in multiple perspectives, this book primarily follows two women, Grace Hughes and Maddie Ives. Grace is a victim of domestic abuse and a prisoner within her own home. Although she’s spoken with the police before, she’s too scared to seek the help she needs in order to escape the danger she’s in. Maddie a detective with a passion for saving women in abusive relationships and is doing everything she can to bring Grace to safety. Maddie’s also on the police team for an unrelated crime within the same city: a car bomber on the loose and sure to strike again.

My Thoughts: I was so drawn in at the start of this book. I was heavily invested in all of the different storylines and couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen. Around the halfway mark, things started to change (and the big twist was revealed, I suppose) and I began to lose interest. Although I was satisfied with the ending, it didn’t quite live up to everything I was hoping for. I did write an entire spoiler-free review for the book, which you can read here if you’re looking for more details to help determine if this book is for you!

Title: Things My Son Needs to Know about the World
Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre: Nonfiction/Humor
Pages: 208
My Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with this eARC in return for an honest review!

Brief Summary: This book is actually a collectino of essays that Backman has written for his infant son to read in the future. They range in length, in format, and in tone – from silly to serious, and everything in between.

My Thoughts: This book is really sweet. If you are a fan of Fredrik Backman as an author, you will love reading this and getting to know him better as a person and as a father. The essay format helps prevent any one part becoming too long-winded or redundant. Overall sweet, funny, and meaningful.

Title: The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 288
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This memoir follows Jeannette, her three siblings, and her parents as they roam the country in and out of homelessness and poverty. Starting with stories from her very young childhood through present-day, she describes all of the hardships they went through and triumphs they had as a family and how they continued to impact her even as a successful adult.

My Thoughts: Oddly enough, I found this book both heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time. Some of the stories were really tough to read, as no one could ever wish for children to go through the things that Jeannette and her siblings did. But, she saw the good in most situations and upheld an overwhelming love for both of her parents despite their flaws and lack of responsibility when it came to raising children, which I think is really admirable.

Title: The Girl He Used to Know
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 291
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This novel follows the love story of Jonathan and Annika, told within two different timelines. The first timeline is about when they first met in college and how they fell in love the first time. The second timeline is ten years later, when they are reconnecting and rekindling their love. We know that something happened within those ten years to cause them to break up and fall out of love, but we don’t know what.

My Thoughts:This book is BEAUTIFUL. I found myself completely falling in love with both of the characters, twice. The really special thing about this book is that it features Annika, who has high-functioning autism. Throughout the story we learn about the difficulties she faces trying to pick up on social cues and navigate through uncomfortable situations in which she doesn’t know how she’s supposed to behave. The beautiful thing is that Jonathan loves her not despite her mental health issues, but actually because of them, and not in an unrealistic way. We as readers fall in love with her at the same time, making it feel completely genuine.

Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: In this novel, Evelyn Hugo is about as big of a star as they come. Now an elderly woman, she’s finally decided to provide an exclusive interview to unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant about her life that has been kept secret for so many years. Through the interview, Evelyn walks through each of the seven husbands she had throughout her life, their impact on her life and career, and if she has an answer to the question everyone’s been asking, “Who was the love of your life?”

My Thoughts: I don’t know if there’s much I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said – it has been sooooo hyped…. and it’s completely worth it. The story is complex, well thought-out, and perfectly told in a unique format. The characters are dynamic and easy to relate to – even if you don’t always like them. The message is important and the ending is impactful. I loved it.

And that’s it! I’m pretty glad I had a separate Buzzwordathon wrap-up to keep this list from getting too long. Let me know if you prefer long wrap ups or several smaller posts!

Buzzwordathon Wrap-Up | 7 Books in 7 Days | Did I Succeed?

Last week I attempted to read 7 books in 7 days and WOW… that was a lot of reading. I was participating in Buzzwordathon, a readathon hosted by Booktubers BooksandLala and ChelseaDolling Reads with the goal of reading as many books with the designated buzzword(s) in the titles as possible. This round’s words were Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. I went for all of the words plus one extra – 7 books in total.

Did I succeed? Technically no.. but I was SO close. I’m still extremely happy with and proud of the reading I got done and even may have found my new favorite book…. 😊 Read on to find out what books I got through and my thoughts on each of them!

Title: The Woman Who Smashed Codes
Author: Jason Fagone
Genre: Historical Nonfiction
Pages: 341
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This historical nonfiction/biography is about Elizebeth Friedman, a codebreaking expert who decoded enemy messages for the US throughout both World Wars. She and her husband, William Friedman, also a code breaker, essentially invented the modern science of cryptology and are now regarded as the “Adam and Eve” of the NSA. This book tells Elizebeth’s story from her very first job deciphering hidden messages within Shakespeare’s works through her most secretive work unmasking Nazi spies and playing a large part in winning WWII.

My Thoughts: Ummm, I want to be Elizebeth Friedman when I grow up. I find the subject of cryptology extremely interesting (The Imitation Game being one of my favorite movies), and Elizebeth’s intelligence, bravery, and humility is super inspiring. This book is pretty long and sometimes reads like a textbook, but the story is very interesting and I’m really glad I got to learn about Elizebeth’s life.

Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler
Genre: YA Mystery/Contemporary
Pages: 321
My Rating: 3 stars
Content Warnings: Rape and Sexual Assault

Brief Summary: We jump into this story the day after a big high-school party at which the main character, Kate, got so drunk that she had to be taken home early. While Kate is recovering from her hangover and piecing together the previous night’s events with her friends, it becomes clear that much more went down than Kate had originally thought. The next week, a charge of sexual assault is filed by one of Kate’s classmates against some of the school’s star basketball players, which causes uproar from the school and community. Kate then finds herself looking for answers – did it actually happen, and if so, who is responsible?

My Thoughts: This book is clearly important, as it covers a highly sensitive topic so relevant in today’s society. I think it does a great job of keeping the story and descriptions appropriate for young readers, while still being clear with its message. I found some parts of the writing repetitive (so. much. fist bumping.) and the ending was predictable, but I can definitely appreciate the book’s intent and would absolutely recommend it to a young adult audience.

Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 347
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: Through a string of letters and emails, 15-year-old Bee is piecing together her mother, Bernadette’s, life from before she went missing. The fact that Bernadette is so mysterious and secretive with her identity has put a serious strain on her relationships with neighbors and other moms at Bee’s school. But would she really abandon Bee and her husband right before they’re supposed to leave for an Antarctic vacation? Bee’s determined to find out not only where her mother is, but what she’s seemingly been hiding from everyone in her life.

My Thoughts: First off, I love the format of this book, told primarily in emails and letters. It allows us to get a little glimpse into each the characters’ perspectives, without reading all of their thoughts – we only get to know the things they’re willing to reveal to put down on paper. I thought the storyline was great, fast-moving enough to stay interested in the mystery at hand but with enough detail to feel like we know the characters pretty intimately. I agree with all of the high praise I’ve seen about this book, and think it will make a great movie!

Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 336
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This story takes place almost exclusively within Shaker Heights, an affluent neighborhood with strict aesthetic guidelines and expectations of its residents to maintain a pristine image. We first meet the Richardson family, made up of 4 children in high school, a hard-working lawyer for a father, and a mother who is filled with a sense of pride and generosity by renting a nearby home to a struggling artist and her high-school aged daughter. The two families get to know each other quite well, but suddenly find themselves on two different sides of a custody battle between a Shaker Heights couple attempting to adopt a baby whose birth mother is putting up a fight. Everyone in the community seems to have a different opinion on what’s best for the baby, which proves to be a much more complex question than it appeared upon first glance.

My Thoughts: I think this might be my new favorite book. I loved it SO much. All of the characters were well-developed through extensive backstories (I think this is where some people might find the book to be slow, but I really enjoyed reading the backgrounds) and the plot connected with me deeply. It made me think hard about what I would do in the situation, who I would most likely side with, and how easily opinions can change once you know personally the people on both sides of the argument. Celeste Ng did a really nice job interweaving multiple story lines in a realistic and impactful way – and I already can’t wait to reread this story!

Title: When to Rob a Bank
Authors: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Pages: 350
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This book is actually a collection of blog posts taken from the Freakonomics blog, created by the authors who originally wrote the book Freakonomics. These blog posts speak on similar topics – interesting ways that economics shape our world and ways we can use that knowledge to our advantage.

My Thoughts: I had seen a lot of negative reviews on this book, perhaps because some of the blog posts are not politically correct or present an unpopular viewpoint. I actually really enjoyed it for that reason – it made me look and think differently about a number of issues I previously thought were pretty black-and-white. For example, it talks about why we shouldn’t necessarily be looking to eliminate all plastic packaging when it comes to food items, and in another post about the actual environmental effects of car emissions and whether walking short distances is as environmentally-friendly as we’ve been taught to believe. Other sections were purely entertaining, like a collection of 6-word mottos for America and the best aptonyms of all time, which are names that sound similar to the person’s profession (e.g. a funeral home director named Eikenberry (“I can bury”) or an insurance guy named Justin Case). Yes, there were a number of articles that I skimmed because I was disinterested and some that I did not agree with, but in my opinion the good outweighed the bad and made it worth the read.

Title: Why We Broke Up
Author: Daniel Handler
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 354
My Rating: 2 stars

Brief Summary: This book is told as one long letter from high-school-aged Min to her now-ex-boyfriend Ed, detailing all of the reasons they – spoiler alert – broke up. She’s writing it to go along with a box of things she is returning to Ed, so each chapter highlights a different item and explains how it specifically contributed to their breakup.

My Thoughts: After reading this book, I have to wonder if I’m just not a fan of YA contemporaries. I found myself the whole time thinking “you should have broken up with him a long time ago because this guy is a complete d-bag.” I think the concept of this book is great, love the breakup letter accompanying the box full of returned stuff, and I really enjoyed the illustrations done by Maira Kalman. I just didn’t like the story or the characters, too much immaturity for me to feel like I could relate at all!

Title: How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking
Author: Jordan Ellenberg
Pages: 437
My Rating: TBD!

Brief Summary: This book is described by Goodreads as the Freakonomics of math – aka how math is everywhere in the world and how by understanding it a bit better, we can understand trends and explanations for social, economic, and environmental activities all around us.

My Thoughts: Unfortunately, this is the one book I did not complete this week. I am about 300 pages in though, so I’ve gotten a decent feeling for it so far – and as an engineer I’m loving everything about this book. I loved math growing up, especially calculus because it really does explain so much of the world. This book is doing a really great job of taking those complex concepts and simplifying them so that even people who are not mathematically-minded can understand and appreciate how much the mathematical concepts are reflected in the real world. Waiting for the aha-moment that this book promises: how we can use this information not just to understand our world but to really shape our own lives and start to make different decisions because of it!

Other than finishing this last book, I think I’m a little burnt out from reading and probably will take the rest of March off. But I had a lot of fun creating this TBR for Buzzwordathon and definitely will be taking part in more readathons going forward!

He Will Kill You: Spoiler-Free Book Review

The Book

Title: He Will Kill You
Author: Charlie Gallagher
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 289
Release date: TODAY! March 15, 2019
Content Warnings: Domestic abuse, rape

The Synopsis (Spoiler-Free)

Grace Hughes is a victim of domestic abuse and a prisoner within her own home. Although she has spoken with the police before, she’s too scared to seek the help she needs in order to escape and become safe from the danger she’s in.

Maddie Ives is the detective with a passion for saving abused women and is doing everything she can to bring Grace to safety. Maddie’s also on the police team for an unrelated crime within the same city: a car bomber on the loose and sure to strike again.

Told through multiple perspectives, this thriller follows the victims, and police, and multiple other civilians that all work together to tie this story together.

My Review

I LOVED the first half of this book. Many different storylines and characters were continually introduced, and I was immediately captivated by Grace and wanted nothing more than for her to break free from her abuser. Unfortunately, about halfway through the book, things happened that changed the main storylines (the big twist I suppose, hard to give any details without spoiling!) and I kind of lost interest. The book became more heavily focused on the police-chase aspect of the story and less on the civilians, which were the characters I personally felt more connected to.

The storytelling and pacing of this book were great to the end, and I think there are a lot of people who will really enjoy this entire book. I would certainly recommend it to the people who are into police-focused mysteries. I do think it noteworthy to mention that the book is pretty heavy with police and European jargon, which went over my head a lot of times – but there is a glossary in the back that defines all of the acronyms and specific terminology, which is very helpful! Wish I would have known about it going in!

My overall rating of this book is 3/5, and I do think I would pick up another novel by Charlie Gallagher if the synopsis were of interest to me!

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me in ebook format by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley and Joffe Books!

February 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

Two months down and I am way ahead of my #2019ReadingChallenge goal with 14/52 books completed. See below for my thoughts on the eight I read this month! Books are listed in order of rating, from highest to lowest. As always, if you’re new to my wrap-ups and are worried about spoilers, read my short disclaimer post here.

This month’s quick stats:
8 books (1 audiobook)
2,290 pages
8 authors (7 female)
4 nonfiction | 4 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
14 books (1 audiobook)
4,426 pages
12 authors (8 female)
6 nonfiction | 8 fiction

Book Title: Dark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Genre: Thriller/Science Fiction
# Pages: 342
My Rating: 5/5 stars

Brief Summary: The main character, Jason Dessen, is a seemingly average dad and husband out for an ice cream run when he is suddenly kidnapped and knocked unconscious in an abandoned warehouse. He awakes to find out that his life is no longer as he knew it to be- no wife and no son. Jason then has to find out who did this to him and how to get his life back to normal.

My Thoughts: The hype is REAL when it comes to this book! It was highly recommended to me and did not disappoint. I’ll be thinking about this story for many days/weeks/years to come, and I highly recommend this book if you like mind-bending psychological thrillers with lots of twists and turns.

Book Title: The Female of the Species
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Contemporary
# Pages: 352
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Brief Summary: We follow three main characters in this book, all individuals who go to the same high school. They all start as acquaintances, but their storylines interweave as they each deal with their own internal demons.

My Thoughts: This book is actually around a 4.5 star rating for me – I really got into the storyline and felt connected to the characters. Heavy book and definite trigger warning for anyone sensitive to stories dealing with rape and rape culture, but an impactful story that again left me thinking about it long after I put it down.

Book Title: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Genre: Self-Help
# Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Brief Summary: Elizabeth Gilbert describes her take on creativity in the world: how it comes to people (in the form of big magic), how to listen to and let go of new ideas, and what to do when creativity seems to leave you and you feel blocked.

My Thoughts: I think this is a beautiful and original take on creativity, inspring and important even for those who do not have creative day jobs and need to find outlets outside of work. I listened to this one on audiobook, and the fact that Elizabeth’s voice is as smooth as butter definitely helped the message come across.

Book Title: Bossypants
Author: Tina Fey
Genre: Memoir
# Pages: 272
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Brief Summary: Tina Fey (very famous actress, comedian, and producer) tells her own story of how she came to be so successful, starting from early childhood and going on through the production of her own TV show, 30 Rock. Many jokes included.

My Thoughts: I didn’t know I liked Tina Fey’s sense of humor so much, but I loved it in this book. Very sarcastic and self-depracating, I was entertained thanks to her jokes but inspired by her story-telling. And I love a successful female in a male-dominated industry!

Book Title: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Thriller/Mystery
# Pages: 349
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Brief Summary: This book follows two timelines: the first is the day that Libby’s older brother Ben supposedly killed their mother and two other sisters. The second is 25 years later, Ben still in jail for the murders and Libby trying to figure out if he really did it. The book bounces back and forth between stories and perspectives until the true events of that day are revealed.

My Thoughts: I was really expecting to love this book, but ended up pretty disappointed. The book kind of dragged for me, partially because of the slow storyline (meant to be ominous, I think) and partially because I don’t particularly enjoy stories told from multiple points of view. I was unsatisfied by the ending, but I know lots of people really enjoyed this book – so it may not have been my cup of tea, but I recommend trying it if it sounds like it could be yours!

Book Title: Girl, Wash Your Face
Author: Rachel Hollis
Genre: Self-Help
# Pages: 220
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Brief Summary: Blogger and media company CEO Rachel Hollis writes about 20 lies she has told herself throughout her life, why none of them are true, and how her life would be different if she had listened to any of them.

My Thoughts: I think the format of this book is great and most of the advice is sound. I also enjoyed reading about Rachel Hollis’s life, family, and career since I didn’t know much before this book. There were some things I was a little confused about after reading this book though, the biggest being her intended audience. It seemed to change every chapter – going from saying that you don’t need a man to make you happy (which is great advice for middle- or high-school girls, for example), and then the next chapter would be advocating to raise your kids in the way that works for you (clearly intended for other moms). I just found myself thinking that I was too old for some of the advice and too young for other parts.

Book Title: You are a Badass
Author: Jen Sincero
Genre: Self-Help
# Pages: 272
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Brief Summary: Pretty self-explanatory – Jen Sincero walks you through several lessons on how to get your butt into gear and your life into action, with emphasis on topics like the law of attraction (“the force” as she calls it) and how your output energy impacts opportunities that come your way.

My Thoughts: Motivational, but overall not super original or ground-breaking. If you’ve never been exposed to the law of attraction before, this book would probably be a good introduction without being too overwhelming.

Book Title: The Roar
Author: Emma Clayton
Genre: Dystopia
# Pages: 483
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Brief Summary: This dystopia follows Mika and Ellie, two 12-year-old twins living in a post-apocolyptic world caused by an “animal plague” 30 years ago. Ellie was kidnapped one year prior to the book’s starting point and is trying to get back to her family; Mika is trying to win a competition at his local arcade that he thinks will lead him to finding Ellie.

My Thoughts: I LOVE a good dystopia, and especially one with a game or competition element to it. I was thoroughly entertained by this story but unfortunately was left with more questions than answers and a lot of too-good-to-be-true coincidences that made the ending frustrating. I know that this is meant to be more of a childrens/middle-grade-level book, so I’m sure 13-year-old me would have loved it, but 24-year-old me will not be continuing the series.

All in all, February was a great reading month for me! I’m feeling very motivated for March, which is good because I’ll be taking part in my first ever readathon!

What did you read in February? Let me know what your goals are for March and if there are any books you’ve read recently that I should add to my TBR! Thanks for stoppin by!

January 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

What a great start to the new year and to my #2019ReadingChallenge goal of 52 books! I started off ahead of schedule this month and am excited to keep it going. Below are all of the books that I read in January in order of rating, highest to lowest. I also threw in some stats that I plan on tracking throughout the year.

If you’re worried about spoilers at all, read my disclaimer here. The gist is that I will never intentionally spoil a book or its ending, but when giving a brief summary and my overall thoughts, I’ll be covering the basic plot which you may prefer not to read. In that case, stop after you see my rating!

This month’s quick stats:
6 books
2,136 pages
4 authors (1 female)
2 nonfiction | 4 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
6 books
2,136 pages
4 authors (1 female)
2 nonfiction | 4 fiction

Book Title: The Sense of an Ending
Author: Julian Barnes
Genre: Contemporary
# Pages: 163
My Rating: 5/5 stars

Brief Summary: This novel follows a middle-aged man named Tony as he reminisces on stories from his childhood through early adulthood. He recounts his experiences making friends, losing friends, and dealing with the consequences of his actions that are affecting him to this day. I’d go into more detail, but trust me when I say it’s better not knowing ahead of time.

My Thoughts: This book is short but packs a real punch. To me it was very reminiscent of The Perks of Being a Wallflower: introspective, nostalgic, a little slow-rolling, with an ending that took me by surprise and left me thinking about it for days afterwards. This book is for you if you want a quick read that will provoke some self-reflection and a little bit of mind f***-ery.

Book Title: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan
Genre: Contemporary
# Pages: 527
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Brief Summary: Rachel and Nick are a young adult couple living in New York when Nick decides to bring Rachel home to Singapore to meet his family. There, Rachel finds out that Nick’s family is “crazy rich” and filled with all kinds of family drama. We get to read about it not only from Rachel and Nick’s perspectives, but through the perspectives of other family members as well.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book for what it is: a light-hearted, comedic novel making fun of family dynamics. I flew through it (despite being over 500 pages long) and actually laughed out loud a couple of times. Did it change my life? No. Could you just watch the movie and be fine? Yes. Did I still have a great time reading this book and do I consider it a good use of my time? Yep!

Book Title: China Rich Girlfriend
Author: Kevin Kwan
Genre: Contemporary
# Pages: 479
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Brief Summary: More family drama between Nick, Rachel, and their families. New family members are revealed and bring in their own host of issues.

My Thoughts: Typically I don’t love book #2 in 3-book series. Book 2 is usually filler material, setting everyone and everything up for the finale. Not with this series, though – because the genre isn’t mystery, thriller, or action, there’s nothing to set up for, so it was equally as enjoyable to me as book 1.

Book Title: Rich People Problems
Author: Kevin Kwan
Genre: Contemporary
# Pages: 541
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Brief Summary: You guessed it: more family drama surround Nick and Rachel! I would give more information, but it’s not worth spoiling if you haven’t read the first two books in the series. This one has a LITTLE element of mystery in it, which keeps you intrigued to the last page. 

My Thoughts: A great wrap-up for the series. I was completely satisfied with the mystery reveal and sort-of twists implemented into the story line. If you liked the first two books, you’ll like the third for sure.

Book Title: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
Author: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Genre: Self-Help
# Pages: 226
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Brief Summary: This book is primarily told by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook, author of Lean In, all-around inspiring lady) as she recounts her experience losing her husband, Dave. She speaks about her struggles with grief and the concrete steps her friend Adam Grant (psychologist and author) shared with her to recover from the trauma and thrive throughout her life afterwards.

My Thoughts: Truthfully, it was not what I expected – and most of that is because I did not do much research on the book prior to picking it up. I have read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, which is all about becoming successful as a female in the professional world, and I really loved it. I thought this book would be similar, but instead found it focused much more on personal tragedies, loss, and grief, than on adversities you might encounter in the workplace. Had I known that, I might have begun this book with a different mindset and given it a higher rating… or I might never have read it. I do think it gives some useful strategies to get through times of loss, and for that reason will likely reread it in the future or recommend it to others going through tough personal situations.

Book Title: One Nation Under Taught
Author: Dr. Vince M. Bertram
Genre: Nonfiction/Education
# Pages: 200
My Rating: 2/5 stars

Brief Summary:America is in a little bit of an education crisis is comparison to other well-developed countries in the world, and the author of this book provides evidence of that as well as his solution: Project Lead The Way (the program Bertram founded that teaches engineering to high-school students).

My Thoughts: I love the premise of this book – as an engineer myself, I totally see the need for more STEM graduates and think that a book to educate on that topic is a great idea. However, this book turned into a 200-page advertisement for PLTW. It’s not that I don’t support the program, because I do, but this book just seemed to scream at me “here’s all the terrible stuff America is doing to its students and here’s how I’m going to single-handedly fix it.” Not quite as inspiring as I hoped it would be.