November 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

In my November TBR post, I revealed my ambitious reading plans for the month that included reading all of the Goodreads Thriller nominees and participating in Tome Topple, Buzzwordathon, and Sci Fi Month. I’m pleasantly surprised with my ability to stick (mostly!) to that original plan and ended up having a great reading month. Below are all of the books I completed along with which readathon/challenge it fulfilled for me. I’d love to know if you read any of the books below or participated in the readathons I mentioned above!

This month’s quick stats:
9 books (3 audiobooks)
2,480 pages
10 authors (7 female)
0 nonfiction | 9 fiction
This year’s quick stats:
101 books (22 audiobooks)
25,969 pages
95 authors (52 female)
24 nonfiction | 77 fiction

Title: Illuminae
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 596
My Rating: 3 stars
Readathon/Challenge: Sci Fi Month

Brief Summary: This book tells the story of Kady and Ezra, two teenagers forced to evacuate their home planet (not Earth) and board two different warships in a space battle between powerful space entities. The book is most notable for its unique writing style – the story is told dossier-style through emails, medical reports, memos, IMs, interviews, etc.

My Thoughts: My thoughts on this book are actually a little bit conflicting – on one hand, I absolutely love the multi-media format and thought it added an interesting element to the sci-fi story and made for a fun reading experience. I also really came to enjoy the relationship between the two main characters and found myself rooting hard for them not only to survive but to reconnect with each other in the end. However, that’s where my love for the story ends – the rest of it I actually found to be extremely confusing and boring. It took a long time for me to understand (if I ever did fully understand…) the universe they were in, what had happened in the past, and what they were fighting for in the present. I don’t typically love action movies or books, so I’m not surprised that I didn’t love the action scenes, but I also can’t think of a single OTHER character in the book that I fully knew, understood, or cared for. I do think I would pick up the second book in the series, because again I love the format and do think a lot of work went into building the story, but I’m not rushing out to buy it right this second.

Title: The Whisper Man
Author: Alex North
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 2 stars
Readathon/Challenge: Goodreads Mystery/Thriller Nominees

Brief Summary: This book follows a few different perspectives of people living in a town where, 20 years ago, five young boys (like ages 7-8) were abducted and killed. The man responsible for the murders has been caught and become known in the town as the “Whisper Man” because of the way he would sit outside of their windows and whisper creepy things to in the days leading up to their disappearances. Now, 20 years later, the town is reeling because a new little boy has gone missing, and although the people and authorities know it can’t be the Whisper Man because he’s being held in jail, the similarities are eerie and have people wondering if there was an accomplice to the previous murders and if that accomplice could be back, looking for more little boys to abduct and kill.

My Thoughts: The premise of this book is super creepy – I mean, abducted and murdered children is absolutely a topic that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and this book did a good job of building the suspense between the past and the present. Once the initial creepiness wore off, though, I found this mystery a little disappointing in that it didn’t do anything super original or surprising in any way. I would have loved a few more twists or something that would really make this book stand out in my mind, but unfortunately, I think most of the details will fade in my memory and this book will drop far down on my list of good or favorite thrillers.

Title: The Mother-In-Law
Author: Sally Hepworth
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 4 stars
Readathon/Challenge: Goodreads Mystery/Thriller Nominees

Brief Summary: This book shifts back and forth between the perspectives of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law with a complicated relationship. They didn’t exactly start off on the right foot, and since then their relationship has consisted of tip-toeing around each other, not exactly outwardly fighting but each knowing that the other isn’t her biggest fan. When one day the mother-in-law turns up dead, everyone else in the family begins to wonder about secrets within the family and whether the apparent suicide is what it appears to be, or if foul play could be involved.

My Thoughts: I’ll start this review by saying that I absolutely would not consider this book to be a thriller – although there is the mystery element of the murder/suicide, the majority of the story reads like a contemporary or chick-lit book. We get to know the past of the relationship between the mother- and daughter-in-law, plus the upbringings of both and how that affected their family dynamic. I surprisingly enjoyed the story because of these complex relationships and dynamics, and ultimately I was satisfied with the eventual reveal of the mystery. Was it the most thrilling thing I’ve ever read? No, but I can still appreciate a story with many layers and that actually tackles many hard-hitting issues a lot of families may deal with.

Title: My Sister, the Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 226
My Rating: 2 stars
Readathon/Challenge: Goodreads Mystery/Thriller Nominees

Brief Summary: This book follows a young woman named Korede, who frequently gets phone calls from her sister telling her that she accidentally killed her boyfriend and needs help cleaning it up. Korede has gone along with her sister three times now, covering up her mess and her crimes, but now she is conflicted because her sister’s new boyfriend is someone Korede actually has feelings for and doesn’t want to turn up dead – does she try to warn him and risk turning in her sister, or stay silent and risk another deadly accident?

My Thoughts: I’ve definitely seen this book around the Bookternet quite a bit, with reviews that differ greatly. Of the critiques I’ve seen, most say that the writing is chopping, the pacing is off, and the book itself is too short for the plot to fully developed. After finishing the book, I actually didn’t mind any of those things and disliked it for completely different reasons. In my opinion, the story is completely dull and I really hated almost all of the characters. I wasn’t rooting for anyone, I wasn’t scared or shocked by anything in the plotline (I mean, the title is pretty clear on what you can expect), and I didn’t really understand the point of any of the side stories that were thrown in. I wouldn’t say that I regret reading this book, but I’m disappointed after all of the buzz I’ve been seeing about it this year and definitely wouldn’t consider it a top thriller.

Title: Thunderhead
Author: Neal Schusterman
Genre: Dystopia
Pages: 504
My Rating: 4 stars
Readathon/Challenge: Tome Topple

Brief Summary: This is the second book in the very popular Arc of a Scythe series by Neal Schusterman, in which we follow characters in a futuristic world where humans have conquered mortality and the only way to die is to be selected and gleaned by a Scythe. Scythes are highly-respected and highly-trained members of the society tasked with gleaning a certain number of people every year in order to keep population under control. Otherwise, the world is a completely perfect and self-sufficient place, thanks to the Thunderhead – an entity based on todays “Cloud” that is all-knowing and all-controlling in terms of managing hunger, income, crime, etc. This second book continues the story of two apprentice scythes from the first book in the series and dives much deeper into the Thunderhead’s role itself.

My Thoughts: I read Scythe, the first book, earlier this year and absolutely loved it. I am very happy to say that Thunderhead is a very solid second book that didn’t suffer from “second book syndrome” at all in my opinion. I loved learning more about the world and each of the characters, and the new characters and plot advancements were enough to keep me invested throughout the book and intrigued for the third and final book in the series. This is a must-read for lovers of the dystopian genre!

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars
Readathon/Challenge: Tome Topple

Brief Summary: This fantasy book is generally about a traveling magical circus that pops up in random locations all over the world and is open to the public from dusk to dawn. When people attend the circus, they are awe-struck by the experience – delicious food and smells, dazzling decorations, and highly entertaining performers everywhere they look. Throughout this story, we get to know the behind-the-scenes members of this circus, including the originator himself and many of the employees and performers who make it all come together, including two young magicians raised in preparation for a competition with each other to determine whose powers are greater.

My Thoughts: I am not a very big fantasy reader, so I knew that it was unlikely that I’d fall head-over-heels in love with this book like everyone else seems to… but after finishing it, I’m actually a little confused by the hype. I will say that the writing is absolutely BEAUTIFUL and the descriptions of the circus absolutely make me wish I could go and experience it for myself. But the plot…. Is non-existent? The synopsis makes it sound like there will be a fast-paced, action-packed competition between two magicians, but that is so not what happens, and I found myself both bored and confused as I waited longer and longer for any action to happen. Plus all of the other side characters and stories were a little confusing and also took away from any sort of action. Overall it’s hard to say that I hated it, because I definitely wanted to finish the story, but even harder to say that I loved – or even liked – it. I’d love to hear some feedback from anyone who loves this story – did you go in with different expectations, or did I miss something in the story that made it more impactful?

Title: Wilder Girls
Author: Rory Power
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 353
My Rating: 3 stars
Readathon/Challenge: Sci Fi Month

Brief Summary: This book has been described as many things – a fantasy/sci fi/horror gender-bent retelling of Lord of the Flies has been the most common description that I’ve seen. The story follows a group of girls being quarantined on Raxter Island, where they were attending an all-girls school until a mysterious disease broke out and started causing mutations and eventually killing most of the inhabitants. Because nobody knows what the disease is or what is causing it, people on the mainland don’t want to risk it spreading and choose to keep the girls stranded on the island with few resources being shipped over every couple of days to keep the survivors alive until some kind of cure is found. This leaves the girls extremely hungry, scared, and determined to find out more about the island’s inhabitants and history to explain their mysterious situation.

My Thoughts: This book was good – even great at the beginning – but just wasn’t ENOUGH for me. I wanted more time with the characters, more information and background when it came to the setting, and definitely more answers at the end. I really enjoyed the story itself but all of the lingering questions left me unsatisfied and hesitant to recommend it to people who don’t know what they’re getting into.

Title: Nine Perfect Strangers
Author: Liane Moriarty
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 450
My Rating: 3 stars
Readathon/Challenge: Buzzwordathon

Brief Summary: This contemporary story follows nine individuals as they check in to a 10-day health resort that promises to completely change their lives through mysterious and unconventional measures. The “patients” don’t quite know what to expect, but most are willing to try just about anything to get their lives back on track – something that the staff know well and even use to their advantage at times.

My Thoughts: I have been reading a LOT of thrillers and sci-fi lately, so it was nice to get back into contemporary and just read about characters living their lives – and in this case, trying to improve them. I thought the character development was great – this book is told through over 10 character perspectives, so the fact that I could easily keep all of them straight and actually end up invested and caring about all of them is really impressive. I loved the first half of the story (the slower and arguably more boring half) because I was so interested in each of the characters and intrigued enough in the situation to really want to know how they would all change by the end. The twist(s) that happened throughout the second half seemed unrealistic and unnecessary to me, though, and took away from my enjoyment a bit. I’d recommend this book to people who really enjoy character-driven books almost bordering on character studies, and then say to keep an open mind about where the story may go!

Title: Miracle Creek
Author: Angie Kim
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 351
My Rating: 4 stars
Readathon/Challenge: Goodreads Mystery/Thriller Nominees

Brief Summary: This mystery follows the story and court case after an explosion at an oxygen-treatment center leaves two people dead, a handful of people injured, and a bunch of people looking suspicious as the mystery is revealed of what ultimately caused the disaster.

My Thoughts: I wouldn’t call this book your typical thriller – much more of a mystery, as the tragic event happens right away and the entire rest of the book is filling in the pieces of what really happened. A good majority of the book is told through the court case following, and although I wouldn’t normally pin myself as a courtroom-mystery-lover, I actually did really enjoy this story as a whole, including the courtroom scenes and way of revealing the mystery.

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Dystopia
Pages: 333
My Rating:  stars
Readathon/Challenge: Buzzwordathon


Although I do wish I could have completed a few more books in November, overall I’m happy with my reading experiences and hopeful that I will finish the year off strong with a good reading month in December. I’d love to know what reading plans you have for the last month of the year!


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!


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!


July 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

July 2019… AKA my biggest, and possibly best, reading month so far of the year! 14 books completed, 9 of them being either 4- or 5-star reads. I’d call that a success!

In my July TBR post, I mentioned that not only was I planning on participating in The Reading Rush readathon, but I loosely set my entire month’s TBR based on the readathon’s prompts. I didn’t read every single book on that TBR, nor did I read the 7 books in 7 days for the readathon itself, but I think this month overall was still a resounding success. See below for all of the books I completed and my thoughts!

This month’s quick stats:
14 books (4 audiobooks)
3,026 pages
15 authors (7 female)
5 nonfiction | 9 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
59 books (8 audiobooks)
15,847 pages
56 authors (32 female)
20 nonfiction | 39 fiction

Title: Foolish Hearts
Author:
Emma Mills
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
320
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This young adult contemporary is about Claudia, a high school girl who finds herself accidentally eavesdropping on the breakup of her school’s “it” couple, Iris and Paige. This puts her on rocky terms with Iris right before being assigned her partner for multiple English class assignments and to work their school’s play together, making for a very interesting senior year filled with drama, rumors, boy band fandom, new friends and relationships.

My Thoughts: Just adorable. I don’t read a lot of young adult because of how ridiculous and dramatic I find some of the characters and storylines, but this one actually broke through the cheesiness and reminded me of exactly the type of story I would have read when I was in middle school – in a good way!

Title: A Keeper
Author:
Graham Norton
Genre:
Mystery
Pages:
221
My Rating:
3 stars
Release Date: August 13, 2019
Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Book for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Brief Summary: Elizabeth is a divorced, single mom stuck with the unfortunate task of going through her late mother’s home and belongings. In doing this, she finds a collection of old letters that she can only assume are from her father, a man she was never told much about. This book flashes back and forth between the two women’s lives to reveal the events that actually happened all those years ago, and what Elizabeth is going to do about it after finding out.

My Thoughts: This book is definitely a page-turner. I was super intrigued by the story and enjoyed it alternating between past and present. I wish some of the mystery’s reveals were more shocking or suspenseful, but I enjoyed the story altogether. I would specifically recommend this book to people who like slow-burning mysteries that aren’t necessary thrillers!

Title: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Author:
Stephen R. Covey
Genre:
Self-Help
Pages:
319
My Rating:
2 stars

Brief Summary: This book, originally published in 1989, is a very highly-regarded self-help book promising to share the seven habits that successful individuals implement in their everyday life to achieve that success.

My Thoughts: I felt extremely “meh” about this one. I found it to be outdated, preachy, and long-winded. I do think it has some fundamentally good advice, but I can think of at least one or two other books that say what this book was trying to say, but in more concise and impactful ways. If you’re an avid self-help reader, I’d skip this one – you can find the principles elsewhere.

Title: The Perfect Stranger
Author:
Megan Miranda
Genre:
Thriller
Pages:
337
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This thriller follows Leah, a former journalist who moved out of Boston and into rural Pennsylvania to become a teacher. Strange things start happening to the people around her – her roommate suddenly goes missing, and a different woman who looks eerily like Leah is found assaulted by a nearby lake. She works with police officer named Kyle, who she also happens to strike a romantic connection with, to solve these mysteries and find out if they are connected in any way.

My Thoughts: I had a great experience reading this thriller – very creepy and twisty, great pacing, and I really didn’t know which characters to trust. I enjoyed the entire plot along with the ending and at first was planning to give this read 5 stars. The only reason I lowered it down to a 4 is because it was pretty quick to leave my memory in the days after putting it down – but overall very enjoyable and I’d highly recommend for thriller fans and/or fans of Megan Miranda. Planning on getting to more of her books soon!

Title: Brave, Not Perfect
Author:
Reshma Saujani
Genre:
Female Nonfiction
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This book is written by Reshma Saujani, a lawyer and politician who gave a popular TED Talk about her experience running for Congress (and losing), and later starting the non-profit organization Girls Who Code – two difficult life choices that have shaped her life and success to this day. This book relates those experience to a lesson she thinks should be taught to girls everywhere at every age – to strive for bravery, not perfection, in a world that historically has encouraged the exact opposite.

My Thoughts: I picked up this book for a book club at my workplace and found it INCREDIBLY relatable and inspiring. I absolutely love the Girls Who Code organization, so I’ll admit I probably was biased because of my admiration for the author to begin with, but I think she makes excellent points about the way girls are raised today and gives plenty of actionable tips to help prevent the perfectionist tendencies engrained within ourselves and that we want to avoid passing on to future generations.

Title: Sometimes I Lie
Author:
Alice Feeney
Genre:
Thriller
Pages:
262
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: Another thriller, this one follows Amber, a young woman who regains consciousness within a hospital bed, where she has been stuck in a coma for several days. Though she cannot open her eyes or speak, she can hear the people around her – the doctors, her husband and sister, and a mysterious individual who sneaks into her room at night. This book alternates between three timelines: present day in the hospital, the days leading up to the accident that brought her there, and twenty years in the past to help solve the puzzle of Amber’s life and those around her.

My Thoughts: I’ve been known to really dislike thrillers that give the main character memory problems – the only ones that I’ve enjoyed (this one and What Alice Forgot) I think do it in the best way, though, with an actual accident that can be attributed to causing memory loss. Aside from the gap in Amber’s memory, I think this story was well-crafted and I enjoyed putting all of the pieces together that relate Amber’s family, coworkers, and others to her accident and the current state of her life. Maybe a little predictable, but still overall enjoyable.

Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author:
Emily X.R. Pan
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
460
My Rating:
5 stars

Brief Summary: This contemporary story follows Leigh in the months following her mother’s suicide. In the midst of her grief, she is given reason to believe that her mother has actually returned as a bird and is urging her to travel to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. Believing she is following her mother’s wishes, and believing that doing so will bring her mother closer and possibly offer some insight to her death, Leigh goes on a journey between past and present, real and fantastical, to find out more than she thought possible about her mother, her family, and herself.

My Thoughts: This book is undeniably beautiful – on the outside (because the cover IS gorgeous) and on the inside. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the writing and the story, even though magical realism is not my usual cup of tea. All of the characters are super well-developed, and I feel like I learned a lot about people and cultures different from me and my own. I also think this book covers the delicate topics of suicide and loss in a way that will resonate with a lot of different people, as hard as it is to address.

Title: Holes
Author:
Louis Sachar
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
5 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book and watch the movie adaptation

Brief Summary: This middle-grade story is about a boy named Stanley who is sent to a correctional camp after being accused of stealing a pair of tennis shoes. At the camp, Stanley and the rest of the campers are forced to dig one hole, each, every day – five feet in diameter and five feet deep. The book alternates between Stanley’s experience and the historical story of the campsite, which may be more closely related than Stanley first realizes.

My Thoughts: I mean, how could I rate this any fewer than 5 stars? I grew up LOVING the movie, which follows the book almost identically. The nostalgia combined with the humor and life lessons this book provides makes it a classic and a book I can’t wait for my future kids to read!

Title: Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink
Author:
Katrina Alcorn
Genre:
Family
Pages:
262
My Rating:
5 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with 5+ words in the title, Read an author’s debut book

Brief Summary: Kristina Alcorn was a 37-year-old mother with a great husband, three healthy kids, and a thriving career when she suddenly found herself pulling her car over to avoid having a major panic attack on the freeway – with her kids in tow. Wondering how someone like herself, with a supportive partner and flexible workplace, could possibly be struggling with work-life balance, she tried to look both within herself and to her peers to see if she was alone or if parenthood is a bigger struggle than anyone makes it out to be. Turns out it is, and Kristina set out to find if there’s anything that can be done about it, if only to help herself out of the breakdown she was spiraling into. This book is a recollection of that time in her life when she re-learned how to be a mother PLUS truly thrive in her professional and social lives.

My Thoughts: As a mother-to-be (due in December!) this book highlighted all of the fears I have about having a kid and planning to keep the rest of my life (marriage, job, social events) intact. While it was a little scary to read about this seemingly perfect mother completely break down under the stress, it ultimately showed me that I won’t be alone in ANY of the feelings I might have in motherhood. And that is a REALLY comforting feeling. I found this book entertaining, relatable, reassuring, and most importantly helpful. Highly recommend to all moms (and dads!) out there just trying to stay above water.

Title: The Number Devil
Author:
Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Genre:
Miscellaneous/Math
Pages:
255
My Rating:
3 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with a non-human main character

Brief Summary: This fictional story is about Robert, a school-aged boy who hates math but is visited in his dreams by a “number devil.” The devil leads him through all kinds of mathematical theories and makes them fun and interesting, putting fun cartoonish twists on them and creating easy ways to remember and utilize them later on.

My Thoughts: I love that this book tries to make math fun. I absolutely love finding patterns and things within numbers and found myself pleasantly surprised by learning a few things myself from the number devil. I do think it’s a LITTLE over-the-top with the whimsy, subtly renaming some of the terms, which I think would make it confusing to carry things from this book over into math class (for example, the book always calls prime numbers “prima donnas,” which is catchy and easy to remember, but it might take a while for a kid to make the connection when their teacher tries teaching prime numbers for the first time). But I think that if this book can convince someone that math/numbers are fun, then that’s a great thing!

Title: The Color Purple
Author:
Alice Walker
Genre:
Classic
Pages:
288
My Rating:
4 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with purple on the cover

Brief Summary: This classic novel is about Celie, a young, woman of color living in the southern United States writing letters first to God, then to her long-lost sister separated from Celie at childhood. She tells of her experience bearing children at an extremely young age, being married off to a man who is in love with another woman, and eventually finding true love herself. The book covers absolutely everything from sexism and feminism to racism to LGBTQ+ rights to sexual and domestic abuse.

My Thoughts: I first read this book in high school I believe as an optional AP English assignment. Reading it again now, I actually can’t believe I was encouraged to read it then – it is extremely graphic with its sexual descriptions and has some really disturbing subject matter. But if you can get through all of that, it’s really incredible how hopeful the narrative still is, even with all of the abuse and hardship Celie goes through she still has the strength to hope for a brighter future and for health and happiness for those around her. I don’t know if I have much else to say about this book that hasn’t already been said, because it is such a classic, but if you have not yet read this book and are prepared for the powerful yet disturbing story of Celie’s life, then I agree with everyone else that this is a must-read.

Title: Moneyball
Author:
Michael Lewis
Genre:
Sports
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
3 stars
RR Prompts Fulfilled: Read a book you meant to read last year, Read a book in the same spot the entire time

Brief Summary: This book primarily is about the Oakland A’s, a baseball team that has had to overcome budgetary challenges to stay competitive with the best teams in the MLB. They must get creative with drafting strategies, finding recruits with talents invisible to the big-budget teams but that they can rely on to produce winning results for the A’s.  

My Thoughts: At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I honestly didn’t expect this book to focus quite so heavily on baseball. This book was recommended by a top executive at my company, so I thought there would be parallels drawn between the baseball world and the business world – but no, this is a baseball book through and through. If you know that going in, and if you’re interested in learning about baseball statistics and strategies, then I do think there are a lot of really interesting stories in here and facts that I had no idea about, as a pretty casual baseball fan.

Title: Stargirl
Author:
Jerry Spinelli
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This middle-grade contemporary is known as a celebration of nonconformity, a story about a teenager named Stargirl who transfers to Mica Area High School and completely throws everyone for a loop. The other students don’t know whether to marvel at her confidence or shun her for being so different – and one boy named Leo is the most confused of all as he ends up falling for her and her unconventional ways.

My Thoughts: Again, hard not to love this one if you read it as a child or teen, which I did! I think everyone can relate with wanting to fit in in high school and having conflicting feelings about those who choose to stand out, and this book does an excellent job of describing those complexities and teaching the lessons of accepting others even when it doesn’t seem like the popular choice.

Title: The Science of Harry Potter
Authors:
Mark Brake and Jon Chase
Genre:
Miscellaneous/Science
Pages:
202
My Rating:
2 stars

Brief Summary: As the title suggests, this book dives into some of Harry Potter’s most intriguing magical elements (Platform 9 ¾, flying broomsticks, talking paintings, etc.) and evaluates whether any of them would be feasible today or in the future as backed by science.

My Thoughts: I was unfortunately super disappointed by this book. I picked it up on a whim, as someone who has enjoyed all of the Harry Potter movies (unfortunately not yet the books!) and a lover of all things science-y and analytical. But I found myself REALLY bored by some of the book’s sections and skipped ahead just to the ones I was interested in, and unfortunately even those weren’t as interesting as I’d hoped.


Note to self: Next time I plan on reading 14 books in a month, maybe try writing some of these summaries/reviews as I go instead of leaving them to the very end. That was a lot for one night!

Whew – and with that all done, on to August and yet another ambitious TBR! Definitely let me know how your July went, if you have read any of the books I mentioned above, and what your plans are for the next month and rest of the year! Happy reading!


Mid-Year Reading Summary

And just like that, I guess 2019 is already halfway over! Because my reading goal has been going SO well and I’ve already read 45 of the 52 books I wanted to complete by the end of this year, I thought now would be a good time to recap all of that reading, mention some standout favorites so far, and set some new goals for the remainder of the year.

General Reading Summary

Books Completed: 45
Pages Read: 12,821
Authors Read: 41
Overall Genre Breakdown: 30 fiction, 15 nonfiction

Detailed Reading Summary

Reading Statistics

Female: 25 (61%)
Male: 16 (39%)

Physical Books: 36 (80%)
eBooks: 5 (11%)
Audiobooks: 4 (9%)

Contemporaries: 14 (31%)
Thrillers/Mysteries: 7 (16%)
Female Nonfiction: 6 (13%)
Memoirs: 4 (8.9%)
Miscellaneous: 4 (8.9%)
Classics: 3 (6.7%)
Dystopias: 2 (4.4%)
Historical Fiction: 2 (4.4%)
Science Fiction: 2 (4.4%)
Sports: 1 (2.2%)

1 star: 1 (2.2%)
2 stars: 4 (8.9%)
3 stars: 13 (29%)
4 stars: 18 (40%)
5 stars: 9 (20%)

Favorite Reads

In the table up in the detailed reading summary, you can see that the nine books I rated 5 stars are written in pink. I could say that all of those are my “favorites” so far of the year – and that would be true – but I really want to highlight the 5 books that really stand out in my mind as must-reads.

  1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
    This book, when I read it, immediately stood out as a new possible favorite book of all time. The writing was great, the characters were interesting, and the storyline included a lot of sensitive topics that I felt connected to and enjoyed reading the different sides of (custody disagreements, parenting styles, general feelings of inclusion and belonging). I actually don’t think this book would be everyone’s cup of tea because it is a pretty slow-moving contemporary, but I really, really enjoyed it.
  2. The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
    This was another emotional one for me. I’m not a big crier when it comes to reading, but this book got me about as close to tears as possible. I also don’t consider myself a romance lover, but the storyline of the couple in this book is really special. I think people could learn a lot about empathy by reading this book, so it’s a big recommendation from me. You can find my full review of this book here.
  3. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This by Kate White
    This is the only nonfiction book on my favorites list – in fact, it’s the only nonfiction book that I’ve rated 5 stars so far this year. It is full of extremely useful and relevant tips for any woman with a career – whether you’re in the magazine industry like her or the engineering industry like me. It’s long enough to really dive into important topics but moves fast enough and covers enough different topics to keep it from getting too drawn-out or preachy. It includes both entertaining anecdotes to give context to her points and actionable pieces of advice to feel like you’re actually getting something out of it. Overall a great read for anyone, whether you’re just starting in a career or you’re already in management or beyond.
  4. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
    This is by far one of the most-hyped books I’ve picked up this year, and to me it totally lived up to all of the great reviews. It’s primarily science fiction, but reads like a thriller and makes you contemplate your own life like a hard-hitting contemporary might. I never felt bored, but I also never felt like it got too over-the-top with action or unbelievability.
  5. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
    I originally went into this book with very little knowledge about the plot – and I’d recommend that anyone wanting to read this book do the same. All I’ll say is that this book is similar in vibe to The Perks of Being a Wallflower – nostalgic, a little slow-moving, with a really powerful ending. I was shocked by how much the story impacted me and how much I was left thinking about it days, weeks, and now even months after finishing it.

Rest of Year Goals

Considering the fact that I only have 7 books to read before completing my 2019 Reading Challenge, I definitely think it’s necessary to up my goal, at least unofficially (I’ll probably leave it alone on Goodreads). The logical next goal would be 90 books, which is double what I read in the first half. But part of me wants to go for 100 🙂

Other goals I have for the rest of the year include:

  • Continuing to post monthly wrap-ups on my blog so that I can keep all of my thoughts and reviews in one place.
  • Starting to do monthly challenges to read certain types of books (keep an eye out for my August TBR for an example).
  • Continuing to read primarily female authors
  • Continuing to read at least 2 non-fiction books every month

But mostly, my goal is just to keep reading as much as I possibly can!


January-June Monthly Wrap-Ups

Book Reviews

Book Recommendations


June 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

I’m so happy to say that after quite the two-month reading slump, I’m back and motivated as ever. This month I read 8 books, tied for my best month so far this year!

Another round of Buzzwordathon was held in June, accounting for 4 of my 8 books. Instead of repeating everything I said in my Buzzwordathon Wrap-Up post, I’ll just link it for you to check out here. Feel free to go back and read that one if you’re curious what my readathon books were!

As for the remaining four books, below are my summaries and mini-reviews of each of them. As usual, my monthly and year-to-date stats are laid out as well. I can’t believe how well I’m doing on my reading goals this year, and I’m excited to post a mid-year wrap up next week to expand on those goals a little more and talk about my favorite books that I’ve read so far in 2019!

This month’s quick stats:
8 books
2,553 pages
8 authors (4 female)
2 nonfiction | 6 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
45 books (4 audiobooks)
12,821 pages
41 authors (25 female)
15 nonfiction | 30 fiction

Title: The Breakdown
Author: B.A. Paris
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 328
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: Ever since driving past a parked car in the woods, in the rain, and not stopping to help the woman inside, Cass has felt extremely uneasy about the entire situation – even though she had no reason to believe the woman was in danger. Later, when it’s revealed that the woman was murdered in that exact location, Cass’s guilt goes to the next level. Along with constantly thinking about how she should have saved the woman, Cass starts to forget little things in her daily life – where she left her car, if she took her medication, the alarm code for their house, etc. When she starts getting ominous phone calls to her house, she gets paranoid that the killer is now out for her, but no one in her life – including her husband – seems to believe her.

My Thoughts: Before this book, I had read Paris’s two other thrillers and given them both 5 stars – so I was incredibly excited to read this one. I liked the start of the story, but I quickly became annoyed with the fact that the main character started forgetting things and that became the cause of her unreliability as a narrator and as a human in her own life. I don’t know guys, am I the only one tired of thrillers with main (female) characters who have memory problems? It seems like a lazy way to leave out details that later become important in the mystery. But if there is anyone who particularly LIKES when characters can’t remember things about their days and the unreliability that that causes, you probably would really enjoy this book! I love Paris’s writing style and overall the rest of the story kept me intrigued throughout the entire book, but unfortunately is my least favorite of her thrillers so far. It looks like her next is coming out early 2020, so I’m definitely excited for that 😊

Title: Honeymoon with Death
Author: Vivian Conroy
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 193
My Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: July 1, 2019
Thanks to NetGalley and Canelo for providing me with this eARC in return for an honest review!

Brief Summary: This book is tagged to be “the perfect 1920s cosy crime caper.” It follows newlywed Damaris on her honeymoon to a small island in Greece, a trip planned and provided by her new husband. Upon arriving, she starts to get the feeling that she’s been here before, which can’t be possible as she never traveled anywhere as a child or growing up. To add to her uneasiness, she starts seeing things that later disappear and at the peak of her confusion finds herself standing over a dead body, unable to explain how she got there. Luckily for Damaris, there is one man on the island who doesn’t think she is crazy OR guilty – an inspector named Jasper who has the feeling there is more going on around the island than meets the eye.

My Thoughts: What did I just say about women in thrillers having memory problems and those being the only cause of suspicion and unreliability for the otherwise stable main character? Interesting… but again I will digress, as the memory problems were only a small portion of this book’s mystery and I otherwise found myself very engrossed in the story and all of the characters. I really liked the vacation vibe, something I have not read a lot of within the thriller category, and the alternating perspectives that the author used to give points of view from many of the characters. For how complex the mystery is and number of characters, I never got too confused and I really enjoyed the reveals and how everything was pieced together. Overall I think this is a solid thriller and definitely recommend to those who enjoy inspector/detective style mysteries.

Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Dystopia
Pages: 433
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: In a futuristic world where technology has advanced so much that humans have achieved immortality, the only form of population control comes from scythes – highly-respected individuals given the responsibility to “glean”, or kill, a certain number of people each year. While everyone in the world recognizes the power these scythes contain, most would never want that level of responsibility or guilt that undoubtedly goes with it. Citra and Rowan are two teenagers chosen to become apprentices, studying under a scythe for a year and then given the opportunity to become one themselves – resulting in them having to make monumental decisions including whether they can accept the responsibility, handle the difficult job, and exactly what type of scythes they will end up becoming.

My Thoughts: THIS is a dystopia done right. I love the complexity of this dystopian world and the way that Shusterman describes it. Not only is it interesting and entertaining to read about, it’s plausible to assume that our current world could evolve into something that resembles the book’s world (which, of course, is slightly terrifying). I also enjoy that this book’s conflicts don’t center around a corrupt government like so many dystopias do, and there is no “chosen one” main character that has us puzzled as to how or why they are the ones able to start a revolution. Instead, it contains relatable characters, intriguing twists, and many moments that had me questioning the definition of humanity in the realm of this book’s world. Definitely worth the hype that I have seen this book receive, and I look forward to reading the subsequent books in the series.

Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Genre: Classic
Pages: 443
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: Jane Eyre is the story of an orphan who grows up having to provide and fend for herself completely. Going from her unkind aunt’s house to boarding school with few friends to working as a governess (tutor/teacher) at a rich family’s estate, Jane becomes accustomed to shrinking into the background, only speaking when spoken to and not offering more of her opinion than asked. When she eventually falls in love with her employer and starts feeling more attention on her, she must make a decision about the kind of life she truly wants for herself.

My Thoughts: I’m not really sure what I expected from this book – I knew very little going in, other than the obvious fact that it’s a classic novel beloved by many. Like most classics, I found MANY parts of the book to be unnecessarily drawn out and slow. To get through it, I bounced back and forth between my phyiscal copy and the audiobook. I probably would have given my reading experience a 2 or 3 – but looking back on the story now that I’ve finished the book, I do think it’s beautiful and I can appreciate the long, descriptive portions as a testament to the classic that it is. What I most like about the book is that we as readers and the other characters in the book come to love Jane not for her beauty (as it’s actually mentioned several times that Jane is not pretty), but for her character and morals that extend throughout the entire book. I’m very glad to have finally read this book and now be in the know as to what all of the hype is about!


Buzzwordathon Wrap-Up | June 2019 | YOU

For my second round of Buzzwordathon, a readathon hosted by booktubers Booksandlala and Chanelletime, I went in with the much more (in my opinion) reasonable goal of 4 books in 7 days. [As opposed to my last, highly ambitious attempt of 7 books in 7 days – read about how that went here!]

For those not familiar with Buzzwordathon, it’s a week-long readathon with the goal of reading only books with a particular word in the title. This round’s buzzword was “you.” I chose 4 books on my owned TBR to tackle, and I’m happy to say that I completed all of them! Below are mini-reviews of the books I read and my thoughts on each of them – I’m very happy to say that not only was it a great week for my page count, but also for my enjoyment. No books lower than 3 stars, and two 5-stars!

Title: I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This
Author: Kate White
Genre: Female Nonfiction/Business Self-Help
Pages: 345
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: Kate White, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, wrote this book to be a complete career guide for young women in any industry. It covers everything from how to apply for and land your first job, to how to impress your boss, to how to get promoted, to how to manage other people, all the way up to how to handle reaching the “big job” that you’ve spent your whole career striving for.

My Thoughts: I wrote on Goodreads that this is one of, if not THE, best career-focused self-help books I’ve ever read. Even though my industry is COMPLETELY different from the magazine/media industry, there were so many helpful tips throughout this book. It’s long enough to actually flush out all of her points (a big pet peeve of mine in self-help books is when they say a catchy, inspirational tip but then don’t follow up on how it’s actually useful), but moved quickly enough to cover a LOT of ground – pretty much an entire career. I didn’t ever find myself skimming or getting bored. Overall I’m just really happy to own and have read this book, and I can absolutely see myself reaching for it again as I reach different points in my career.

Title: The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Author: Mitch Albom
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 196
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This novel follows Eddie, an amusement park maintenance worker who suddenly reaches the end of his 83-year-old life. After death, he goes through a journey of meeting five people who have died before him and were integral in his life, whether he knew it at the time or not. He learns lessons about his life, his death, the world around him, and the impact his seemingly simple life left.

My Thoughts: This book is as heartwarming and inspirational as the title makes it seem. I think it is aimed at a younger audience, so I’m not surprised that I found the stories to be pretty simple and the life lessons a little cliché, but they are good life lessons nonetheless.

Title: Do You Realize?
Author: Kevin A. Kuhn
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 400
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This book follows George, a middle-aged man who finds himself completely stuck in a rut in his life. His relationship with his wife is fine, his kids are fine, and his job is fine, but he is not fulfilled in any way. Suddenly his life is shifted when he meets a strange man on the subway offering to let him beta test an app on a new Apple watch that lets him travel to parallel universes and alternate realities of his life, effectively letting him time travel and relive key moments in his life. Around the same time, one of his family members is in an accident that has him wondering if he is living his life to the fullest, or if he could be doing more, a major question that shifts his entire mindset.

My Thoughts: This book – which I picked up on a complete whim on my Bookstore Scavenger Hunt – was the BEST surprise! I absolutely loved this story. It’s reminiscent in a way of Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter – so if you enjoyed that book, I think you would enjoy this one, too. But, it’s also very different. Both books explore parallel universes, but Dark Matter does it in a thriller-y way, while this book is much more contemporary in style. Not only did this book keep me entertained, it also made me think deeply about some of life’s biggest mysteries and left me feeling fulfilled and even inspired.

Title: How Lucky You Can Be
Author: Buster Olney
Genre: Sports Memoir
Pages: 215
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: Don Meyer was a well-renowned college basketball coach who was in a car accident right before his 2008 season. This book tells the story of his coaching life before and after the accident, trying to prove himself as an effective coach and then having to re-develop his entire coaching style after losing one of his legs.

My Thoughts: I think my reading experience would have been a lot better had I known who Don Meyer was before this book. [This book actually belongs to my husband, a big sports fan – I never would have picked it up if we didn’t already own it]. However, I can still appreciate a well-written book with heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories about an incredible coach and person. Very inspiring.


And with that, my second round of Buzzwordathon is over! Though 4 books in a week may not be the MOST impressive, I’m still really happy that I read and enjoyed four full books. Not only that, I’m left feeling refreshed (not burnt out) and ready to finish out June strong! How’s your June going?!