March 2020 Books Read

Monthly Book Round-Up-4

Coronavirus. COVID-19. Pandemic. Social distancing. Shelter in place.

Like everyone else, my life has been overtaken with all things coronavirus-related. It’s hard not to focus on anything else, including books.

I haven’t posted to Bookstagram since March 4; my last blog post was about the February books I read; I’m way behind on updating my book journals. You would think staying home would give me time to work on all this stuff, right?

Wrong.

Being an introvert, I enjoy my time alone, and alone time is hard to come by when everyone in the family is home. Because of this, I read more audiobooks than usual this past month.

When I need an escape, I just put my noise-cancelling headphones on to be taken on a literary journey where characters can interact with each other without fear of infection. Such simpler times those were.

I hope you are navigating through this pandemic as safely and sanely as you possibly can. What books are getting you through this difficult time? Let me know in the comments.


American RoyalsAmerican Royals by Katharine McGee

Genre: YA

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I love the concept of this novel. What if George Washington had chosen the path of monarchy instead of democracy? The story is told in present day in the kingdom of George Washington the First’s descendants. It’s most definitely a YA-centered novel. Each of our four protagonists are in the midst of one love-life debacle or another. But it’s a fun, light read that ends on a cliffhanger that makes you yearn to read the next installment (that won’t be available until later this year).


KaramoKaramo by Karamo Brown

Genre: Celebrity Memoir

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m not a diehard fan of Queer Eye on Netflix, so I don’t know why I’m making my way through the Fab Five’s memoirs. After reading Jonathan’s book last month, I decided to tackle Karamo’s next, as he has the most interesting background, in my opinion. (Finding out in his twenties that he fathered a son, even though he’s gay? Say what?) I liked Karamo’s philosophical wonderings and hearing about his background of being a social worker and bringing more of a counseling vibe to his “culture guru” character on the show. My biggest problem is that Karamo never 100% lives up to the actions of his past. He’s constantly apologizing for things he did wrong, which is fine, but he seems to do it in every chapter, and I found myself getting annoyed after awhile. But, overall it’s an interesting glimpse into Karamo’s life up to this point.


Long Bright RiverLong Bright River by Liz Moore

Genre: Literary Mystery

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I loved, loved, LOVED this book. As of right now, this is my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. It’s a combination of everything I look for while reading: family relationships, mystery, current issues afflicting our society (in this case, opioid use). It was so beautifully written and was a book I couldn’t wait to pick up to see what happened next, a rarity in the books I’ve read lately. A must read for anyone who enjoys literary mysteries (think Miracle Creek), which I have discovered is my new favorite genre.


Dad is FatDad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Genre: Celebrity Memoir/Humor

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I listened to the entirety of this audiobook within a matter of a couple days. It was refreshing to read a comical take on parenthood, especially now that my husband and I are involuntarily holed up with a surly preteen and a crazy 3-year-old. Gaffigan shares stories of raising his five children with his wife in New York City. I found myself LOLing often, and nodding my head in agreement just as much. I definitely recommend this to parents who need a fun escape from what they’re currently enduring.


Such a Fun AgeSuch a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Genre: Literary Fiction

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This book was so hyped up this past winter. It was all over Instagram and was a pick for many a book club (including Reese Witherspoon’s). I had to see what all the fuss was about. I downloaded the audio version, and while I liked the narrator who read it, I just thought it was OK. None of the characters, save 4-year-old Briar, were likable. The story was a bit contrived, though it did go in directions I wasn’t expecting it to go in. It was an interesting take on issues related to race, but I’ve read better (The Hate U Give, The Nickel Boys). I’m not saying you should read it, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t read it. I just thought it was “meh”.


The UnhoneymoonersThe Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Genre: Romance

Format: Ebook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Talk about contrived. Everything that happened in this book was so inorganic and predictable. BUT, I still found myself enjoying it. It’s the perfect escapism book for the times we’re in at the moment. Though this can be described as “chick lit” or “fluff,” I thought it was really well written, which isn’t always the case with novels in this genre. Let your imagination hop on a plane to Hawaii with Olive and Ethan (the sister and brother of the bride and groom, who have to unexpectedly go on the trip in the newly married couple’s absence), and enjoy the sweepstakes-winning honeymoon suite and the enemies-to-lovers storyline that goes with it.


To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Genre: Classic

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I remember reading this book in high school, and I remember loving it, but 20 years later I couldn’t tell you what the story was about. I decided to revisit this classic novel by listening to the audiobook read by actress Sissy Spacek. Holy. Cow. Can Sissy Spacek narrate every book? She was fantastic and brought the Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama and its inhabitants to life. While the story is excellent for its depiction of racial inequality, its true heart lies in the relationships of the characters, which explains why I loved it then and why I still love it now. Everyone should read this book at least once in their lifetime.


UntangledUntangled by Lisa Damour

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Ebook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I urge anyone with a teenage daughter, or a daughter of any age really, to read this book. Damour is a psychologist who works with young teenagers, who also has two daughters herself, so she knows what she’s talking about here. My daughter is on the cusp of teenagedom, and I could already relate to so many things presented in this book as a parent, but it also gave me an inside look into what my daughter is going through. It’s an absolutely fascinating read, and I’ve already recommended it to anyone I think can get some great use out of it.


ColumbineColumbine by Dave Cullen

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Paperback

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Why I decided to pick up this book about the 1999 Columbine school shooting in the midst of the crisis the world is going through, I’ll never know. But I’m glad I did read it, because it clears up a lot of the misconceptions of what happened on, before, and after that fateful day. I was in high school when this event happened, and I can remember the uncertainty surrounding going to school and the potential for disaster. That fear is exactly what co-conspirator Eric Harris hoped to leave behind, and it’s unfortunate to say he got exactly what he wanted. This was an eye-opening book, not only about the killers, but about the media coverage that followed, the botched handling by law enforcement, and how the community handled the aftermath. It’s not a light read, but it’s an important one.


March Reads 2020-2

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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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

 

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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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