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.


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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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January 2020 Books Read

Monthly Book Round-Up-3

January was a loooong month.

Circumstances being what they were this month, I didn’t get to finish as many books as I was hoping to read (as Goodreads so eloquently reminds me – I’m one book behind pace to my yearly goal). But the ones I did read were fantastic.

I’m adding a new feature to my reviews, and that is the format in which I read the book. I feel that format can make or break whether or not I will like a book. I started The Nickel Boys on audio and was not captivated by it. I happened to see it at the library and decided I would try to read it in print, and I enjoyed it so much better in this format.

I’m also going to briefly mention the books I DNF’d (did not finish) this month. I’m trying to read at a higher quality, so if I’m not enjoying a book, I will not force myself to finish. And that doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t go back to a DNF book, it just wasn’t right for me at this point in time.

Focusing on quality is really working for me, and I implore everyone to do the same. Life is too short to not be reading something you enjoy!


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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Genre: YA

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What a powerful way to start off the new year. I know this book has been around for awhile, and I’m kind of late to the game, but wow. Now I know why this book was so popular when it came out in 2017. It tells the tale of Starr who sees her friend get shot to death by a cop in a traffic stop gone wrong. This book is extremely poignant for the time we’re living in. The audiobook is excellent, one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. Bahni Turpin is an awesome narrator. This truly is a YA novel, however, as it pauses here and there to remind us of that when Starr is hanging out with her friends from school. But overall, this is an important novel that everyone should read.


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Today We Go Home by Kelli Estes

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was the first book I received after joining the Once Upon a Book Club subscription service. You get to open gifts related to the corresponding page numbers along the way, which makes it feel like you are a part of the story. I loved the experience, and the book was great too. Told in two timelines between an Iraq veteran and a soldier in the Civil War, both of whom are women, was a delightful surprise. I haven’t read a historical fiction novel set during the Civil War, and it was a refreshing break from reading a WWII-set novel. And learning that women posing as men to fight in the war was a common occurrence made the story that much more interesting. The present day storyline wasn’t as strong, in my opinion, but it was overall an enjoyable read.


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The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This was my first foray into Colson Whitehead’s work, and I wasn’t disappointed. Based on a true story of a reformatory boys school in 1950s Florida, this novel tackles some heavy topics such as abuse and race, yet it’s told in a way that is readable. The writing is beautiful, but I had to switch from audio to hardcover to truly comprehend the story. The novel interweaves quotes and aspirations from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as it was set during the Civil Rights movement, which really opened my eyes to that era and how it still resonants today. This is a great “makes you think” book.


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Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Genre: Classic / Adventure

Format: Ebook (Serial App)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I did it. I finished my first classic of the year. Yes, it was a children’s novel, and yes, it’s a story that everyone has heard of, but I’m proud that I actually stuck with it and didn’t give up 20 pages in and never return back to it like I do with most classics. That’s a win, in my book. I had decided to read Peter Pan because my daughter had recently been in our community theater’s production of it. I was surprised at how the story of the play followed so closely with the story of the book, that is to say, it’s nothing like the Disney version. I enjoyed reading it overall, but, man, Peter annoyed the ever living crap out of me. Whiny. Arrogant. Narcissistic. I now know why they had to make him more likable for the Disney movie, because he is not likable here. But it’s a fun adventure novel that can be read with your kiddos.


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Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Genre: Historical Fiction / Literary

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I picked this up on a whim from the library. I had heard about it through bookish word of mouth, and I saw that it was short (only 196 pages), so I thought I’d give it a try. The jacket cover proclaimed it as very poetic, which scared me as I am not a poetry fan, but as soon as I dug in I couldn’t put it down. It’s not told in a conventional way; it goes back in forth in time from the early 2000s to the 1970s and is told from multiple characters’ perspectives. It might be confusing to some, but I thought it helped elevate the story. I love a good book about relationships, and that’s ultimately what this story is. It’s a great, super-quick read.


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Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark

Genre: Memoir

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t listen to Kilgariff and Hardstark’s popular My Favorite Murder podcast, but I had heard that you don’t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy this book. While the authors mention the show and the topic of true crime occasionally, this was more like a book of essays about the women’s lives growing up. They are both gifted writers, and funny to boot. I’m still not planning on listening to their podcast, but I’m very glad I read their book. If you need a good laugh, this book is for you.


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The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I did not mean to read so many historical fiction novels this month, but every single one I read was excellent. The Stationery Shop was no different. Another Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club pick, this novel tells the story of Roya from the time she was a lovestruck teenager in 1950s Tehran to how she got to where she is in present day Boston. I loved learning about the history of the political turmoil surrounding Iran while reading a fictional account of characters during that time. While it’s a love story at its core, it also tackles topical issues such as undiagnosed mental illness, abortion, social class status, and death. That may sound like a downer, but it was beautifully written and didn’t drag at all. It was a great book to round out my month of reading.


Books I DNF’d this month:

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory – I love Jasmine Guillory as a person, but I’ve come to realize I’m not a fan of her subpar writing.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal – I could not stand the audio narrator’s voice on this one. I might pick it up in paper or digital format in the future.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo – I was so excited to pick this one up, but sadly could not get into it. Maybe it will capture my interest at a later time.


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

January 2020 Reads

 

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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!

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

December Reads