Books I Read in December

Monthly Book Round-Up-2

December was a super busy month for me, full of work-commitments, Christmas shopping/wrapping/festivities, and our whole family getting the stomach flu (not a fun way to spend a week, let me tell ya). Along with getting sucked back into The Office reruns (in order to listen to the new Office Ladies podcast – highly recommend), there was not a lot of time to dedicate to reading.

The books I did get to read were good ones, at least. It was a good way to close out 2019, my best year for reading ever. Here’s to more quality reading in 2020!

91TscA6252LThe Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Genre: Literary Fiction

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tom Hanks is the narrator of the audio version of this story about the relationship between two siblings. I love Tom Hanks, the actor. Not so sure I love Tom Hanks, the audiobook narrator. I had trouble getting into this story because of the nuanced way Hanks told it, and I have a feeling if I’d read it in print, I would have enjoyed it way more. I love a good relationship story, and this novel definitely has it. Learning about the lives of siblings Maeve and Danny and their unusual upbringing was definitely my cup of tea. It is very well-written, and one that I think I would have benefitted from by actually reading the words with my eyes instead of my ears. It might even be worth a reread in print, an extreme rarity for me. I’m looking forward to reading the back catalog of Patchett’s.

41jgSAIDkvLCeline by Peter Heller

Genre: Thriller

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I hated Peter Heller’s newest novel The River, which came out earlier this year. I was very hesitant about reading his novel from a couple years ago, Celine, which was the book club pick of Modern Mrs. Darcy in November. I’m so glad I did, though. My opinion of this book could not be more different than that of The River. Both books are very atmospheric, and Heller is a master of writing descriptive nature. The huge difference is in the stories. Celine focuses on the private detective of the title name, a mature (aka older) woman who takes on a mysterious case. We follow her and her husband through the journey, while also diving into Celine’s past, which touches on why she became a private detective in the first place. The characters were likable, the story was a page-turner, and overall I thought this was a great piece of literary fiction. It’s definitely changed how I view Peter Heller, to the point where I just may pick up more of his novels (a notion I would have never thought of earlier this year!).

81iiD9gp4ALThe Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

Genre: Literary Fiction

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book had a ton of hype. I’d heard that you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the divinity of this story. While this might be true, I still didn’t completely love this novel. The characters were well-developed, but that doesn’t mean any of them were likable. I enjoyed the later half of the book more than the beginning, but at the same time, it felt like I was reading two different novels. While the topic of faith is consistent throughout, the topic of relationships were often forced and a little contrived. I have heard nothing but love from the people who have read this book, so I’m sure I’m in the minority here. But this book wasn’t for me.

71j+tAU0zsLThe Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff

Genre: Nonfiction

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a book that every American needs to read. It’s the story of the events of 9/11 like they’ve never been told before. This oral history is told by the people who lived it – World Trade Center workers, family members of the hijacked airplanes, firefighters, pedestrians, politicians, newscasters, air controllers, kids in school. It’s told from these perspectives chronologically, beginning with the night before 9/11 up to weeks after the tragic event.  It’s totally worth a listen on audio, where we get to hear some of the recordings of the phone calls and speeches of that day. The full cast of narrators do a great job of conveying the emotions of the people they’re portraying. It is unbelievably heart-wrenching. I dare you not to cry when reading it.

71W-UqjDtfLHow Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen

Genre: Nonfiction/Books about Books

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a fun, short read for any book lover. Though it was written in the early 90s, the topics are still relevant and will probably always withstand the test of time. Quindlen talks about what reading has meant to her since she was a child, and it was hard not to get swept up in the nostalgia of the adventures of reading, past and present. It’s a quick read for anyone who needs a reminder of the magic that books can bring.

What are some good books you read this month? Let me know in the comments!

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December Reads

Books I Read in November

Monthly Book Round-Up

Another month has gone by in a flash. This month I tried to stick to reading more nonfiction for Nonfiction November, but I had to throw a couple fiction books in there to lighten the mood.

It was a decent reading month. I read a lot of good books with only one dud, but there were no five stars in the bunch (though a couple came close). Now that the year is winding down and the holidays are ramping up, I have a feeling my reading will be minimal for the last few weeks of 2019. But for now, here are my ratings and reviews for the books I read in November.


The Whisper Man by Alex North

Genre: Thriller

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I read this book at the tail-end of October to get into the Halloween spirit; and boy, did this really get the spooky job done. I could only read this book with plenty of lights on, and at one point, I had to leave this book downstairs instead of taking it up to the bedroom with me because I didn’t want it anywhere near me. It’s spooky, but not super scary, which is why I was able to handle it. Recently widowed Tom and his son Jake move to a new town, unaware that the city has a murderous past that is coming back, even though the alleged “Whisper Man” is behind bars. This story had many twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and it kept me hooked until the end.


David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Genre: Nonfiction

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was my first foray into Malcolm Gladwell’s books. His newest book was so hyped, that I decided to read a backlist while I had the newest one on hold. This book was intriguing and extremely well-researched. Gladwell dives into stories of the so-called “little man”; the underdogs of our society. The overall arching theme was apparent throughout the different stories. (Which was not the case in his newest book. See my review below.) This is definitely a “makes you think” book, but in the best possible way.


Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Genre: Memoir

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book was recommended to me by a coworker (the first at my new job!), so I picked it up on audio from my library. While the story is interesting -a young woman suddenly finds her mental health declining at a rapid pace- it didn’t keep me hooked throughout. I often found myself losing interest. There’s a lot of medical talk, which is something I often find myself struggling with. I appreciate the lengths Cahalan went to in order to fill in the gaps of her story while she wasn’t in her right state of mind. It’s apparent why she is a successful journalist. This is one of those books I wished I had liked better than I did.


The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

Genre: Magical Realism

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️.5

The premise of this book was so promising. A girl whose books talk to her? Sign me up. But the premise was not what this book was primarily about, and I found myself extremely disappointed by it. The book revolves around a financially-struggling town called Dove Pond and the ways in which the townspeople, including new-to-the-area Grace, work to save it. If the book had been marketed to this true premise, I don’t know that anyone would read it. It’s quite boring. The magical realism, which would make this book so much more interesting, was put on the back burner in favor of the relationships and hardships of the town’s patrons. It felt like there were two separate story elements, and they did not jive together. Whomp whomp.


The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

Genre: Time Travel/Historical Fiction

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This book was a book club pick for the Currently Reading podcast, and I decided to pick it up from my library on a whim. Boy, am I glad I did. I listened to this on audio, and it was one of those books that I could not stop reading because I had to know what happened. I didn’t know much of anything about the premise before reading it, which made the twists and turns of the story that much better. Time travel is a major plot point of this story, but more than that, it’s about the relationship between a mother and her child, and the lengths that mother will go to in order to protect her offspring. It kind of lagged here and there, but I absolutely loved this story.


Calypso by David Sedaris

Genre: Memoir/Essays

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was my first time reading David Sedaris, and he did not disappoint. I really admire his writing, the way he can weave in and out of a topic and then back in again is a masterful skill. His subject matters in these essays vary from the light and funny to the heavy and funny. He knows how to add humor, even if it’s just in snippets here and there. This is Sedaris’s latest publication, and from what I’ve heard, his best. I don’t know if that will keep me from reading his backlist or not. What I do know is this would be best consumed on audio. Sedaris narrates it himself, and some of the essays are live recordings from his tour. Hearing how he plays it up to the audience’s delight is super fun and makes you wish you were there in person too.


Educated by Tara Westover

Genre: Memoir

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I must confess, I started this book earlier in the year, and it’s one of those books that I let sit on my Kindle until my library loan expired. Then I would borrow it again and get through a couple chapters before it was returned again. This cycle went on for a couple months. There were other books I was more into, and the timing never seemed to be right for me while reading this one. I finally committed myself to finishing it, and I ended up enjoying it overall. I have to say though, this was another book that I felt like the premise had little to do what the overall reach of the book was. Westover’s experience with her Mormon family was the forefront of her story, more so than her education ended up being. It’s fascinating what she went through to get to where she is now, which makes this book worth the read. It just might take awhile to really get into.


Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me by Adrienne Brodeur

Genre: Memoir

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a short book that can be read in no time. The events of Brodeur’s life with her mother makes this memoir a total page-turner. Growing up with a narcissistic mother who ropes her daughter into her affair with her husband’s married best friend, Brodeur’s account of the story makes it feel like you’re reading a soap opera. The ending feels a bit rushed, but overall this is an intriguing read for anyone interested in real-life family drama.


Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

Genre: Nonfiction

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

My library hold on this book came through faster than I was expecting. I borrowed the audio version, and Gladwell makes a disclaimer at the beginning of the book to let listeners know that this was produced more like a podcast, with actual audio from his interviews and musical interludes between chapters. It was a unique audiobook listening experience, and something I can see happening even more in future publications. That’s the good news. The not so good news is that this book lacked a clear focus. While the research and stories Gladwell tells are interesting and relevant for our time period, I didn’t feel the overall theme of talking to strangers was cohesive. Besides that misstep, I did enjoy hearing Gladwell’s accounts of some modern scandals that have plagued our history, such as the Larry Nassar, Jerry Sandusky, and Bernie Madoff cases, just to name a few. Despite its issues, it’s still worth a read.

What are some books you read this past month? Let me know in the comments!

November Reads 2019.png

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Books I Read in October

Monthly Book Round-Up-4

Happy Halloween, fellow book lovers!

October found me in a spooky mood, meaning more than half the books I read were thrillers. (But not straight-up horror. Super scary books? No thank you!) It was a decent reading month, where I discovered that World War II Historical Fiction is not my jam and books that are plot-driven will keep me reading past my bedtime.

I’m finishing up the fiction books I’m currently reading and gearing up for Non-Fiction November, which will be a nice change of pace after all the novels I’ve read lately. Below are the books I read for the month along with my ratings and reviews:


The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Genre: Historical Fiction

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The premise of this book sounded promising. Based on a true story set during the Cold War, it follows a couple secretaries turned spies who are tasked with infiltrating Soviet Russia by way of the banned book Dr. Zhivago. It was interesting in a lot of aspects, but for me the story had too many character perspectives with storylines I didn’t much care for. I might have felt this way because I listened to the book on audio and had a hard time paying attention to the intricate plot points. I think this is one that needs to be read with the eyes and not the ears.


Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Genre: Romance

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is as light a read as light reads can get. While there’s no distinct plot, this is still an enjoyable story. Newly widowed Evvie Drake takes in a recently washed up Major League Baseball pitcher as a tenant in her home to make extra money. Some parts were a little predictable, but I liked that this was a story about starting over and embracing who you’re becoming as opposed to being a straight-up romance novel. And anything to do with baseball (my other pastime love)  is a win in my book.


Verity by Colleen Hoover

Genre: Thriller

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I picked this up based on the hype it has received on the Monthly Book Club Facebook group. People loved this book. I thought it was good, but nowhere near as good as it was hyped up to be. It’s definitely plot driven, and it did keep me up past my bedtime a couple nights because I was eager to see what happened. It was very weird, and those who don’t like explicit sex scenes will not want to read it. But I did ultimately enjoy it, especially the open-ended ending.


The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Genre: Historical Fiction

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️.5

I have seen nothing but praise and love for this book. This was another one of those hyped books that seems to be everywhere. While the writing is good, and the World War II setting is well-detailed, I was completely bored by this book. I had started to read the copy I’d borrowed from my aunt (who is a huge Kristin Hannah fan), but when it wasn’t holding my attention, I decided to switch to the audio version. It didn’t matter what format I read it in; I still found it boring. I think I realized after reading it that I am just not that into WWII fiction like some people seem to be. And that’s ok. I don’t regret reading it, and I’m happy it has helped me realize just exactly what my reading interests are.


The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

Genre: Historical Fiction / Books about Books

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I read this as the November pick for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. I listened to it on audio in order to read it in time for the discussion in the middle of the month (which I still missed), and if I had tried to read it on my own, I think I would still be working on it. There are three storylines, each traveling through different time periods. The exact plot kind of went over my head, if I’m being completely honest. Something about a book or a manuscript that may or may not be a forgery? I don’t know. There was really only one storyline I was interested in, and that was of the relationship between the main character, Peter, and his love, Amanda. Proving to me that stories about relationships are what I’m ultimately interested in.


The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

Genre: Thriller

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I loved this book. It’s probably my favorite thriller that I’ve read this year. That could be that it’s not like the other thrillers on the market right now. Yes there’s a classic unsolved murder, but it also delves into family relationships, which is always a favorite topic for me to read. It also holds a strong message to how we never really know what a person is going through internally despite their external persona. The chapters are short, which makes this a super fast read. I one hundred percent recommend this book.


Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Genre: Thriller

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I wasn’t particularly excited to read this one. I had read one of Jackson’s previous novels (The Almost Sisters) and thought it was just ok. But as soon as I started listening to Never Have I Ever it was hard to stop. This book was so unpredictable. As soon as you think you know what’s going to happen, the story takes a complete left turn. Which is why it was so thrilling to keep reading. And Jackson reads the audio version herself once again, which is always a treat when you get to listen to an author tell their story in their own voice. I very highly recommend it.


The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Genre: Thriller

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Having recently started working for a domestic violence shelter, I’ve been learning more and more about the types of abuse and the different tactics abusers use against their victims. This book does a good job of showcasing these tactics without being overt about it. That may sound like a downer, but the book does have some twists that makes this a thriller worth reading. It reminded me a lot of The Last Mrs. Parrish (another thriller I read this year and loved), so it’s not exactly a story that’s never been done before. But it’s still a quick, easy read.


Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Genre: Thriller

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is another domestic violence-type novel, but with a twist. I won’t reveal what the twist is here, but let’s just say, be weary of couples who appear to be perfect on the outside. This was a fast-paced read (only 298 pages) that I got through in a couple of days. The main character has a sister with Down syndrome, which I loved. I can’t think of any novels I’ve read in the last couple years (or maybe ever) where a main character had the congenital disorder. The main plot can be very disturbing at times, though. Read this one with caution.

What were some good books you read this month? Let me know in the comments!

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October Reads 2019

Books I Read in September

Monthly Book Round-Up-3

September is coming to an end. It was a busy month with starting a new job and learning how to live a new normal. Somehow I was able to read eight books this month. I know I won’t be able to read anywhere near that many moving forward, but it was a good month with some quality reads. (Only one clunker for me in the bunch. I’d say that’s a very successful month!)

Below are the books I read (in the order I read them), along with my rating and review of each.


The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I loved the concept of this book. Essie and her family have been in the spotlight her whole life thanks to their reality TV show. It’s an interesting take on what happens behind the camera and how these “realties” are oftentimes produced for the viewing audience’s pleasure. When Essie becomes pregnant at 17, her ultra-conservative mother works with the show’s producers to come up with a plan on how to cover it up. But Essie has a few secrets of her own up her sleeve. This story is told from three perspectives: Essie, her friend Roarke, and reporter Liberty Bell. I listened to this on audio and found myself tuning out during Liberty’s chapters, but I was intrigued by Essie and Roarke’s stories. This book would have gotten a higher rating from me if it weren’t for my disinterest in Liberty’s storyline, but this is a book I would definitely recommend.


Cinder by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I got this book from the library for my 12-year-old daughter to read as part of her summer reading requirement, thinking it would be fun for her to read a fairy tale retelling. After just one chapter, she deemed the story “too weird” and decided to read a Baby-Sitters Club book instead. I decided to read the book anyway and found the concept of a dystopian world with androids and a deadly plague interesting and entertaining. This book focuses on Cinder, a cyborg based on Cinderella. The world-building is great, and the subsequent novels in the series focus on other classic characters stories in the same world. It’s the first time in awhile that I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books in a series like this.


City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Overall, I enjoyed this novel, but it felt like I was reading two separate books. The first half goes through main character Vivian’s introduction to New York City and the theater world in the 1940s. This is where the story is the strongest. I flew through the first half of this book. It was so interesting to learn of that time period and the behind-the-scenes of a theater company. But the second half dragged on a little bit in which we follow Vivian’s life over the next few decades. It felt a bit rushed, and while it was still interesting to read, it wasn’t as intriguing as the first half of the novel. However, I really like Elizabeth Gilbert’s style of writing. Vivian’s narration is unique and entertaining, and though this is a longer book (almost 500 pages), I got through it quickly. It was a good end-of-summer read.


Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t tend to go for YA novels, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. It was an Anne Bogel recommendation on her podcast, and a past pick in her book club, and I decided to read it based on her enthusiasm for the story. We follow Jessie to a new high school in LA after her widowed dad remarries. She is having a rough time transitioning when a boy who calls himself “Somebody Nobody” starts messaging her and helping her find her footing in this world of rich people. It was a little predictable in some areas, but overall I really enjoyed how deep and introspective the themes were. It made me more open to reading YA novels in the future.


The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️

This was my first time reading a Ruth Ware novel. She is a very popular mystery writer, so I had high hopes going into this one. I listened to this on audio, and while the narrator was good, I felt the story was meh. By the end I was thinking to myself, What was the point of that? It didn’t really capture my interest, and it didn’t feel unique enough compared to some other thrillers I’ve read lately. Maybe this wasn’t the best Ruth Ware novel to start with? Maybe I’ll give her another shot, and here’s hoping that it will be more entertaining than this one was.


Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I absolutely loved this book. It was one that I hesitated about even picking up, but I’m so glad I did. This book came on my radar through Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide. It’s marketed as a Pride and Prejudice retelling (which I still haven’t read – don’t @ me!), and a modern day romance (a genre that is not my go-to). I was immediately drawn into the story within the first few pages. The main characters are Indian, and it was so interesting to learn about the Muslim culture while being invested in the love story between them. I tend to stay away from romance because of the super-corny sex scenes, but this novel had none of that nonsense. It was so enjoyable that I was sad to finish it, which is a rarity for me these days. One of my favorite books this year, for sure.


I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Prescott

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book of essays had a lot of stories that I related to from being a Type A personality to the mundanity of every day life as a wife and mother. I laughed out loud more than a few times. Prescott has such a unique, yet easy-to-read writing style that made this book such a joy to consume. The essay format made it easy to pick up and read at my own pace, and her antidotes were an interesting take on what people experience daily while interspersing her life into the stories. (Hearing why she chose the title in the first chapter was a great way to kick things off.) A good read for anyone looking for a fast-paced memoir.


The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Remember how I mentioned I’m not the biggest fan of romance novels with corny sex scenes? This book is filled with them. So why did I read this novel, you ask? This is a sequel to Guillory’s debut, The Wedding Date, which I read and was not particularly a fan of. But, I saw this book at the library and got it knowing it would be a quick read. I have to say, I enjoyed it much more than the first novel. There’s more focus on the storyline as opposed to sex scene after sex scene on every other page. The characters are a little more likable and better developed. Guillory seems to really be coming into her own as a writer with each subsequent novel she puts out. She’s been a guest on a couple podcasts I listen to, and she is downright delightful as a person. I plan to keep reading her novels in support of her.

Let me know what good books you read this month in the comments!

September Reads 2019-2

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