February 2020 Books Read

Monthly Book Round-Up-5

Though February was a shorter month, I was able to get quite a bit of reading done.

Turns out, suffering a back injury and being stuck in bed for a few days gives you ample time for reading. Gotta look at the upside, right?

The quality of the books I read were pretty decent overall, though no 5-starrers. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book that really grabbed my attention to the point where I couldn’t put it down (though Nothing to See Here was the closest that came to it this month).

Here are the books I read for the month in the order I read them, as well as my DNFs.


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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is one I tried to read on my Kindle app in the past and ended up DNFing 30 or 40 percent in. My library loan had kept running out, even after multiple renewals, so it was time to officially give up on it last spring. I decided to try it on audio this time around since Jim Dale is the narrator, a god in the audiobook realm (he narrates the Harry Potter series). From what I’ve seen in book conversations of this novel, you either love it or you don’t. I’m in the “don’t” camp. It’s not all bad. Morgenstern’s imagination and descriptions of The Night Circus (a circus that happens -you guessed it- at night) and its magical elements are superb. The problem with this novel is the characters. There are a lot of them, none of which are particularly likable. If you’re looking for a fantasy novel to fill the Harry Potter-sized hole in your heart, you might like this magical world. Otherwise, I’d say skip it.


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The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format: Ebook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you’ve read my reviews in the past then you know I love a good family-centered novel, and this one did not disappoint. The story follows married couple Marilyn and David and their four daughters going back and forth between present day and the years of their past. And let’s just say, every single one of them has their own issues, and issues that affect the whole of the family. This book is long. It’s over 500 pages that probably could have been cut by at least a hundred, but at least it’s enjoyable enough that it doesn’t feel like a slog.


Braving the Wilderness

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was my first Brene Brown book I’ve read all the way through, and I just have to say, wow. Not only is she a great researcher and highly informed in her field of psychology, she knows how to write to a wide audience about it. In this book, Brown talks about figuring out your place in the world and how to fit in it. I learned so many things about myself while listening to this book. It’s a great read for self-discovery.


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The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This is a novel that had been on my radar for awhile because of its hype (it was a Book of the Month option and a Once Upon a Book Club pick), so I decided to pick it up. Once I did, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a fun mystery/thriller centered around a family who unwittingly finds themselves as a part of a cult. We go back and forth in time to see how the kids escaped after the adults were found dead from a suicide pact. It’s nothing that’s going to win rewards, but it was a quick read that keeps you guessing, though the ending feels a bit rushed.


Over the Top

Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness

Genre: Celebrity Memoir

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Fans of Netflix’s Queer Eye will enjoy getting to know Jonathan from the time he was a young boy nicknamed “Jack” to how he got on his hit show. I highly advise to listen to this on audio to hear his Jonathanisms read aloud. The topics aren’t all glitter and gold, however. Van Ness covers heavy issues of his own life, including sexual abuse and drug use, that might be hard for some to hear. But it’s an overall fun read for Queer Eye fans.


https://amzn.to/320DhcJ

Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Ebook (ARC)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a great book for perfectionists and over thinkers, two categories I definitely identify with. I covered this book at length in another post (check it out here), so I won’t go into detail here. But if you need some tips on how to handle your overthinking, this is a great read.


One of Us is Lying

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Genre: YA

Format: Ebook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book has been described as “The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars.” It’s a very apt description indeed. We follow characters with classic stereotypes (The Jock, The Braniac, The Pretty One, The Rebel) who are suspected of murder after one of their classmates dies in detention. YA murder mystery is not my typical genre, but I heard high praise for it from Kaytee on the Currently Reading podcast, so I thought I’d give it a go. I kind of wish I hadn’t. It was predictable (I figured out the mystery pretty early on), and the characters felt one-dimensional. It’s okay for a mindless read, otherwise, don’t waste your time.


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Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Genre: Magical Realism

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The premise of this story sounds outrageous. Twin siblings who spontaneously combust when they’re upset or angry? Sounds far-fetched, right? But weirdly, it works. When stories like these are done right, you forget that there’s an element that seems wrong, and Kevin Wilson does magical realism right. The story is about relationships at its heart and how we handle the difficulties of our lives. This is a relatively short book (254 pages), and I flew through it in record time. This novel got a lot of hype this past fall/winter, and trust me, you’ll be glad to know what all the fuss was about after you’ve finished it.


Little Women

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Genre: Classic Literature

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I read the unabridged version of this literary classic because I didn’t want to “cheat” by reading the abridged version. I now regret that decision. This book is looooong, with many chapters that feel unnecessary to the whole of the book. I think I would have enjoyed this novel way more had I read the abridged version. It was fun to dive back in to the lives of the March sisters. I remember watching the movie adaption with Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst multiple times when I was growing up, and it was nice to get to read Alcott’s written version of the story. The language is modern enough that it’s not hard to follow, and the book is a classic for a reason. But please, please read the abridged version. You won’t miss what’s cut. I promise.


Books I DNF’d this month:

You – I thought I would try the book version of the popular Netflix series, and while I liked the narrator of the audiobook’s voice, I could not get over the crude language of the narrator of the story. It doesn’t make me want to watch the TV show, either.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – This was the MMD book club pick for February, and I found myself picking it up because I felt like I had to, not because I was enjoying it. This is one I can see myself picking up again in the future, it just wasn’t the right time to read it now.


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

February Books Read

 

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3 Things Saving My Life Right Now

January and February are my least favorite months of the year. It’s cold outside. It gets dark way too damn early. It’s cold and flu season. My husband leaves the country for work every January for two weeks. The beginning of the year is the pits.

I recently read a blog post from my favorite blogger/podcaster Anne Bogel on modernmrsdarcy.com entitled 3 Things Saving My Life Right Now where she tries to reframe the negative woes of winter by focusing on the positives in her life at the moment.

I thought I’d play along, and I encourage you to, too. Here’s to hoping putting a positive spin on winter will get us through the next few cold, miserable weeks.


1. Books

This is an obvious answer, but I put it here because this is the first winter where I’ve really taken a deep dive on my book journey. There’s nothing better than coming home on a dreary day, starting a fire in the fireplace, and cracking open a book (or my Kindle app) to read under a cozy blanket.


2. LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-7 for Xbox

My husband and I saw this game on sale for about $20 around the holidays, and couldn’t resist the awesome deal. Now we spend our nights together playing a level or two and slowly making our way through all seven years of Harry Potter’s time at Hogwarts.

It’s a fun game for the whole family. My 12-year-old daughter also likes to play while my 3-year-old is memorized by the graphics. I love seeing the movies (which the games are based on) come to life in LEGO form, and using our wands and spells to make our way through the wizarding world.


3. Later.com

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I’ve had a #bookstagram account for a few months now (you can follow my account here). I’m still trying to learn my way through it, including what types of pictures to take and what to write in the captions. I was never good about posting consistently because it felt like such a hassle to remember to log in on my phone, think of something to say on the spot, and post right then and there.

Later.com has been a lifesaver. You can schedule your posts in advance, which includes writing your captions and adding your hashtags. It’s easy to space out your paragraphs (no more typing everything into the notes app first and then copy and pasting into Instagram) and you can store all your pictures in one space.

I use the free version, which has some limitations (you can’t view analytics, and there’s a hashtag suggestion feature that only comes with the paid version; man, would that be useful!), but you can schedule up to 30 posts a month, and it’s extremely easy to use. My bookstagram posts have jumped in number since I started using this app, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking to get a better handle on their own account.


What’s getting you through this winter? Share in the comments!

 

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Book Review: Don’t Overthink It

Don't Overthink It

Title: Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life

Author: Anne Bogel

Genre: Nonfiction

Release Date: March 3, 2020

“You can’t control what happens in life, but you can control how you choose to interpret things.” – Anne Bogel, Don’t Overthink It

Let me make one thing clear right off the bat: I love Anne Bogel. She is one of my idols. I listened to her book podcast What Should I Read Next? before ever entering into my own book journey. I read her blog, Modern Mrs Darcy, consistently, and I’m a member of its online book club (which I pay $10 for, and it’s worth every penny).

When I saw the opportunity to become a part of Bogel’s launch team for her upcoming book, Don’t Overthink It, I jumped at the chance.

I’ve read and enjoyed Bogel’s previous books, Reading People and I’d Rather Be Reading, so I had high hopes for this one, and it didn’t disappoint.

If you find yourself overthinking over every little thing you do, from what to make for dinner for the week, rethinking that big purchase you just made, to going back and correcting every little minute detail in a project you’ve been working on, this book is for you. And as I am guilty of all of the above, this book was tailor-made for me.

Bogel mixes research on overthinking topics such as decision-making, how we choose to spend our money, and how our actions affect those around us, with her own personal experiences. I like reading nonfiction books like this, because you get to learn while also being entertained by stories.

Bogel’s tips and tricks on how to curb your overthinking habits are useful, as well. I would oftentimes think to myself “Huh. I never thought of it that way.” or “Huh. That seems like such a simple solution, why has no one brought it up before?

For example: in Chapter 8 titled “Why It’s Important to Limit Your Options,” Bogel mentions eating the same meal every day or making dinners that your family is guaranteed to like instead of worrying about making something new.

I’m constantly looking for new recipes to try and psyching myself up when making it and worrying that it’s not going to taste good or that no one will like it. Why do I put myself through that instead of just making something I’m already familiar with that I know will get eaten by everyone in my family?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy making new recipes, but I came to the realization that I don’t have to put myself through the overthinking and worry as often as I’ve been doing. If I limit my choices, I can take some of that mental strain off myself and be happier for it.

“Some situations in life are never going to be 100 percent resolved, so why not strive to preserve your mental energy by resolving the things you can?” – Anne Bogel, Don’t Overthink It

Bogel’s main point in this book is to reframe your thinking and spend less time worrying so you can enjoy the experience of what is happening in your life. It’s a sentiment that we all need to be reminded of, and reading this book will give you the tools you need to do just that.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

https://amzn.to/320DhcJ

 

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.*

Backlist vs New Release: Peter Heller

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Welcome to Backlist vs New Release, a new feature on The Shelf.ish Life blog where I will be deep diving into one author’s most recent work and one of their backlist titles.

Today I will be taking a look at two releases by Peter Heller. I heard of Peter Heller through Anne Bogel’s podcast What Should I Read Next? when she recommended The River. She praised the book and called it her favorite book she read in 2019.

I also read Heller’s previous release, Celine, because of Anne, as it was the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club pick for November 2019. Released in 2017, Celine is Peter Heller’s most recent backlist title.

I have very differing opinions about these two novels. One is significantly better than the other, in my opinion. Read on to learn more.


New Release

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The River

Published: 2019

Thoughts: Peter Heller is a beautiful writer, there’s no question about that.

But, wow, was I bored by this book.

Now look, if you like camping and canoeing, and any of that outdoorsy-woodsy stuff, and you like to read about it, then this book is for you.

Let’s start with the positives of this book. Heller writes of nature so beautifully, that it makes you feel like you are actually in Northern Canada, where the story takes place, and canoeing the river with Jack and Wynn, our two main characters. The atmosphere seems to be the main focal point in this story, which would be all fine and good if the characters were just as developed as the place they are visting. Sadly, this is not the case.

Jack and Wynn are not likable. Heller dives a little into their pasts while moving the story forward, but these storylines feel stilted and thrown in. I didn’t care about these characters at all. And when they come across a couple other people on their journey, I liked those characters even less.

Seeing how these characters cope with their natural environment, especially when a wildfire threatens their trip, is something that should seem exciting, and there was a sense of urgency during these moments, but there’s just so much exposition and words that I couldn’t get ramped up for what was happening.

A big thing I realized after reading this book is that I prefer stories with a good amount of dialogue. This story did not have that. And while it is a short book at just 253 pages, it feels like it is twice that long because of all the words.

I was utterly disappointed after reading this book and didn’t anticipate reading another Peter Heller any time soon.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️


Backlist

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Celine 

Published: 2017

Thoughts: A couple months after reading The River, I picked up Celine as part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. I was not excited about, because I was determined that I wasn’t going to like anything else of Heller’s.

I’m so glad I read this book, because where I was bored by The River, I was completely captivated with Celine.

This book still has the environmental description elements to it, but Heller also focuses more on character development.

By the time you’re done reading, you really feel like you know Celine and can empathize with the choices she’s made in her life. It was refreshing to read a story with a mature character, and by mature I mean someone who has lived a longer life than the majority of the narrators I’ve been reading (Celine is in her late sixties).

Celine is a private detective on a mission to solve one last missing person case. We weave in and out of Celine’s life from present day to her past in an attempt to understand how she got to where she is at this point in her life. Sometimes when I read dual storylines like this, I find myself liking one better than the other, but I was equally intrigued between Celine’s past and present day. It was a hard book to put down.

Celine’s just a kick-ass woman, and I loved reading about her.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Winner:

Celine

The characters in Celine are better developed, the story is more interesting, and you won’t be bored reading it.

Peter Heller VS


Let me know how you like this new feature and if there are any authors you would like to see covered!

 

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