July in the books

July came and went and when all was said and done I read 17 books. The books ranged from romance, historical fiction, and thrillers to classics, nonfiction, and even a debut graphic memoir.

Here’s a look at what I read:

53) Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston — 4/5 stars

I picked this book up last summer and got about 70 pages into it but then lost track and didn’t finish it. I started rereading it this summer and finished it in three days. It’s a super fun book and a little look into what could have been in the 2016 election.

54) Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert — 4/5 stars

Hibbert has a talent for writing a romance with characters who seem real. Zaf struggles with anxiety and grief. Dani struggles with dropping walls and letting people get close to her. I enjoyed this book.

55) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas — 5/5 stars

I read this for book club. We wanted to read a different kind of book and decided to tackle this classic. I really enjoyed the prison years, Edmond learning there, his growth, and seeing how the story unfolded in the coming years. I got chills at the end- all human wisdom is summed up in these two words: wait and hope.

56) A Burning by Megha Majumdar — 3.5/5 stars

This book was a quick read. I enjoyed the short chapters and changing perspectives. I didn’t enjoy the ending but it didn’t take away from the book overall.

57) Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder — 5/5 stars

I read this book in one sitting and I wasn’t prepared for it’s beauty. It’s a graphic novel and the illustrations are perfect. It made me laugh and cry and feel feelings. It covers grief, losing a parent, and learning to cope.
“I’m still here, trying to turn the crap into something sweet. Just like she would.”

58) Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia — 4/5 stars

This gothic was nightmarish, dreamy, and creepy. It has a mix of creepy dreams, potent mushrooms, and a really creepy family with a terrible history. I enjoyed the book and finished it in about two days.

59) The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett — 4/5 stars

I really enjoyed the vanishing half. I listened to the audio version and at times it was hard to keep up with the changing perspectives, but overall I really liked it. I think I would have liked more story lines with Desiree and Stella vs. Kennedy and Jude.

60) Turtles all the Way Down by John Green — 4/5 stars

John Green can really do no wrong. The main character suffers from anxiety and OCD and the dialogue is a realistic look of what she goes through every day. She has a loveable best friend who doesn’t always handle it the best and a loving mother who cares so much about her but doesn’t know how to be there for her and stop trying to “fix” her. The book also has the backdrop of a ridiculous story of a billionaire evading arrest and the main character and her friend decide to try to find out what happened to win the reward money. It’s also fun to read a book about Indianapolis when I live in Indianapolis. Moral of the story is this book is an unflinching look at anxiety but it’s also a lot of fun and a little bit of an adventure.

61) Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan — 4/5 stars

This series is wacky, outrageous, and consistently fun. The third and final book didn’t disappoint. It was satisfying to see Nick reconnect with his family.

62) The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis — 4/5 stars

I read this book on the recommendation of my local library. They give out recommendations each week and all you do is tell them a book you recently loved and they’ll find something similar that’s available in Libby as an e-book or audiobook. This book has similar themes to grace year, handmaids tale, and a western. I really enjoyed the friendship and the growth of the characters. There’s no love triangle in this book, which I loved. My only complaint is that the author paints a whole new world in this book and I wanted more background on the raveners, vengeants, welcome houses, and arketta. I believe there will be a sequel so maybe more details will come in that.

63) Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner — 3/5 stars

I was expecting a beach read but it definitely was not that. It’s a bit of a mystery/thriller. There are a lot of twists including fat shaming, frenemies, and social commentary about social media and women’s bodies. I did not enjoy the flashbacks in the first part of the book. There wasn’t any indication that the scene switched to a past memory which made it hard to follow. But, I enjoyed seeing Daphne’s character growth, I loved her relationship with her parents, and how Nick, Darshi, and Daphne worked together.

64) Rabbit by Patricia Williams — 5/5 stars

This book was both hard to read at times but also a quick read. I found myself outraged at Ms. Pat’s upbringing and how she was treated by her mother and “family friend”. It was also laugh out loud funny. She overcame a lot and has turned her pain into laughter and growth.

65) I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown — 5/5 stars

The book was short but impactful. She details some of the discrimination she has faced throughout her life and forced the reader to consider their own unchecked biases.

66) The Guest List by Lucy Foley — 4/5 stars

Very entertaining. I thought I had it all figured out half way through and then I dramatically gasped out loud in the last 20-30 pages.

67) Life Without Water by Marci Bolden — 4/5 stars

I read this book in two days and it was very emotional. I enjoyed that it was also full of adventure, whimsy, forgiveness, and redemption on the way to facing past demons.

68) The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander — 5/5 stars

The author details the deep roots of racism and prejudices in this country and its prison system. At times hard to read, it’s very important to recognize the problems in this system and not turn away from them.

69) Summer of ‘69 by Elin Hilderbrand — 4/5 stars

It took me a little bit to get into this book and all of the characters but I ended up really enjoying it. I was rooting for the characters and enjoying the arc of the story.

What did you read in July?

March in the books

I read a lot of books this month because I found myself at home with a lot of time on my hands. There were a lot of different genres including nonfiction, detective fiction, mystery, historical fiction, thriller, romance, and fantasy.

Here’s a look at what I read:

15) Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo – 3.5/5 stars

I thought there were several good takeaways. I didn’t know about Marie before reading this book, but I liked her tone and personal anecdotes throughout it.

16) The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith – 3.5/5 stars

I enjoyed the second book in the series by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). I think I still liked the first book better, but I’ll definitely continue reading the series. I can’t help but cheer on Cormoran Strike. I like that he has a lot of flaws but is trying to do good and help people out.  

17) The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James – 5/5 stars

I loved this book! It’s the perfect book to get you out of a reading slump. I don’t read a lot of books involving ghosts, so I didn’t know if I’d like this, but I definitely did. I enjoyed the different timelines and thought the author did a great job because at times it seemed like the timelines were merging together.  Also, who doesn’t love strong female characters solving mysteries (I’m talking to you, Nancy Drew fans).

18) The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne – 4.5/5 stars

“I realized I was finally happy.” This was not a quick or easy read, but my heart sure exploded while reading it. It was sad and maddening but also heartfelt. It’s hard to do the book justice in a brief review, but I’ll say I just really wanted good things to happen to Cyril and rooted for him the whole time. I enjoyed how the book was told throughout the timeline of his life.

19) Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb – 4.5/5 stars

I would suggest this book, especially right now. The book is about a therapist, her therapist, and the human condition. Something I took away: From the devastating to the difficult, people do better than they think they will because of our psychological immune systems. Feelings are more like weather systems they blow in and out and are not permanent.  

20) The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang – 3.5/5 stars

I didn’t know anything about this book before checking it out- just that it seemed to be a popular romance novel. It was way more steamy than I expected, but I ended up liking these characters and their love.

21) The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben – 4/5 stars

I loved many of Harlan Coben’s books and his latest didn’t disappoint. I really enjoyed Wilde and Hester. I thought it was face-pasted and had three big twists. I hope we’ll see these characters more in the future.

22) The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver – 4/5 stars

“Everyone has to find their own way back, and if they’re lucky, they have people who love them to hold their hand.” This book is so pretty and put together on the cover and so dark and gloomy on the inside. It’s a good representation of grief and looking put together while going through something. I enjoyed this book and was rooting for Lydia.

23) Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano – 4/5 stars

I can’t say this was an enjoyable read because it’s heavy with grief and hopes for the future that will never be. It was hard to read the chapters about the people on the plane because of this reason. But, I did enjoy seeing Edward grow and move on with his life despite the grief. I also enjoyed his aunt and uncle and how they healed during this time too.

24) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – 5/5 stars

I remember reading the Harry Potter series when it first came out 23 years ago. My mom, brother, and I would pre-order the books at a local bookstore and then pick them up when they came out. I’d read the books in 1-3 days depending on the length. I decided to begin rereading the series for the first time since then and I can’t wait to dive into the others. The first book was so fun and full of magic, wonder, and friendship.

What are you reading?

February in the books

February was a fun month for reading. I had a mix of genres— historical fiction, dystopian, thriller, non-fiction, and romance.

Here’s a look at what I read:

7) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 3.75/5 stars

This book pulled on my heartstrings. I listened to the audiobook while traveling for work. I enjoyed the audio version but at some points it was hard to follow because of the non-linear timeline. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thought it got better as it went on. I also enjoyed that although most of the book takes place during World War II, it’s very much a coming of age story. I did have some questions when I finished the book, but I think the author had some plot holes in there because of the setting.

8) The Grace Year by Kim Liggett – 4.5/5 stars

I really liked this book! It’s a young adult dystopian novel that felt like a combination of the Handmaid’s Tale, Hunger Games, and Romeo and Juliet. It was unique and the plot twists were unexpected- I really didn’t guess what was going to happen at any point while reading. There was lot of hype to this book and it held up to it.

9) Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – 4.5/5 stars

I listened to a skip-the-line copy of the audiobook on Libby through my local library. This debut novel was both readable and thought-provoking. It’s about class, race, and relationships. I laughed out loud at times, gasped at others, and got mad as I learned more about the complex characters. The ending wasn’t my favorite, but I didn’t hate it. I’d suggest this book to those thinking about reading it.

10) The Wives by Tarryn Fisher – 3.25/5 stars

This book was okay. I will say I don’t always enjoy books that have unreliable narrators so that’s one of the reasons I didn’t love it. The book has been compared to the Silent Patient, which I also didn’t enjoy. I thought it was odd that the major shift happened halfway through the book and then when it seemed like the book was wrapping up there was still a quarter of the book left. I was surprised by the twist at the end and thought the ending was unsettling.

11) The Library Book by Susan Orlean –3.75/5 stars

A nonfiction book about libraries sounds boring, but this book kept me engaged and interested. I also have a newfound respect for how important libraries are in communities around the world. The author talked about fond memories she has going to the library with her mom. I have similar memories with my mom. I loved that time and still enjoy going to libraries today.

“It was such a thrill leaving a place with things you hadn’t paid for. Such a thrill anticipating the new books we would read.”

12) The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – 3.25/5 stars

I thought this book was super dramatic, but I honestly couldn’t stop reading. I finished it in two days. There were so many secrets that kept being revealed throughout the book that made it a page-turner. I was also surprised by the ending.

13) Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker – 4.75/5 stars

This book started out a little slow and I didn’t care for the banter between Calla and Jonah over the suitcases and makeup. But, the characters and the story grew on me. I loved that the book was set in Alaska and it had a lot of heart. I ended up falling in love with the character and story and full on cried at the ending. I ordered the sequel and can’t wait to dive into it.

14) Nameless series by Dean Koontz – 3/5 stars

I thought the series was pretty good. I enjoyed that they were short stories that were brief and easy to read. I liked learning a little bit more about nameless throughout the series. I haven’t read anything by Dean Koontz before this but will plan to read some more of his books.

My goal is to read 55 books this year. Each month I’m keeping track of which books I’ve read. You can see my January list here.

My year in books

This year I decided to make more time for reading. I grew up reading a lot of books and getting lost in the different worlds and I wanted to get back into the hobby that I enjoy so much. I set a goal of reading 50 books this year and today I finished my 54th book.

Shortest book: Elevation by Stephen King – 146 pages

Longest book: The Stand by Stephen King – 1153 pages

Least favorite books: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames and The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Favorite books: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, Where’d you go Bernadette by Maria Semple, and Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Favorite books broken down by genre:

General fiction – Beartown by Fredrik Backman and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Fantasy – After the Flood – Kassandra Montag

Mystery/thriller – The Whisper Man by Alex North

Horror – The Institute by Stephen King and Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chobsky

Memoir – Know My Name by Chanel Miller, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, and Educated by Tara Westover

Young adult – Tell me three things by Julie Buxbaum

Science fiction – Recursion by Blake Crouch

Romance – Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Unhoneymooners by Christian Lauren, and Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Historical fiction – The Huntress by Kate Quinn and Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

True crime – I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Detection fiction The Cuckcoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Debut Novel – Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Some of the other books I read this year: Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult, Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman, The Night Oliva Fell by Christina McDonald, Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, The Other Woman by Sandie Jones, Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, One Day in December by Josie Silver, River by Peter Heller, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.

It felt good to set a goal this year and meet and exceed it. I plan to continue reading in 2020 and have set a goal for 55 books next year. Some books on my to be read list include China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory, Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren, Children of Vengeance and Virtue by Tomi Adeyemi, and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

My very own summer reading program

One of my favorite childhood memories is participating in my library’s summer reading program. Basically the more books you read, the more points you earn and you can exchange your points for prizes.

I decided this summer I would do my own summer reading program, if you will. No, there aren’t points or prizes. I’ve just been checking out books from the library and reading as much as I can.

Here are some of my favorite books I’ve read.

1). Beartown – Fredrik Backman

I started Beartown in the spring and read a few chapters before I put it down. The chapters were short but there were so many characters it was hard to keep them straight. I decided to pick it up again in June and I’m glad I did. It’s a slow burn, but the character development and story is so good. Beartown is a book about a hockey town, but it’s not a hockey book.

2). Us Against You – Fredrik Backman

I loved Beartown so much I had to read the sequel. Sometimes sequels get a bad rap, but I didn’t find that to be true with Us Against You. The book broke my heart into a million pieces, but in the best way. I fell in love with the characters and hurt when they hurt and cheered on their successes.

3). Miracle Creek – Angie Kim

Miracle Creek was more than just a thriller or courtroom drama. I thought the author did a great job of conveying deep, complex, and messy people. The book tackles family ties and facing the consequences of your actions. It also kept me guessing until the end.

4). The Lost Girls of Paris – Pam Jenoff

The Lost Girls of Paris started a little slow, but after awhile I couldn’t put it down. It’s a historical fiction novel about women working with the SOE as spies during World War II. It was nerve-wracking and pulled on my heartstrings at the same time. I can’t say I loved everything about it, but it did a great job of showing how fierce and resilient women are.

5). The Wedding Date – Jasmine Guillory

After diving into some historical fiction novels and thrillers, I needed a break. The Wedding Date was just what I needed. It was a quick read and it was charming. I loved reading about Alexa and Drew. I also read The Proposal – the second book in the series. The third book, The Wedding Party is up next for me.

Just like everyone, I have also read books that I wish I could unread.

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames was that book for me. I thought it was unnecessarily long and unnecessarily depressing. It has a lot of good reviews on Goodreads, but it was not the book for me. I will say the beginning was intriguing and had a lot of promise and I liked reading about the Italian-American immigrant family. But, I found it so grim and depressing that I wouldn’t recommend reading it.

What about you? What are you reading? What did you like and what ended up on your did not finish list?