For my books of 2021, I have a few planned but often just pick up a book to read as the mood suits me. Certain moods require certain types of books (if you know, you know).
Anyways... I track all of my books so it seems obvious to share what I'm currently reading, what I'd recommend and thoughts on what books you should add to your "to read" list.
I used to read in the car often while waiting on Greyson at swim team but, as he has gotten older, we have started to drop him off and not wait as long in the car. It's interesting to find different rhythms for this hobby (which reading for me definitely is).
If you are struggling to find reading time but want to, my advice is to find a ten minute pocket of time that works for you daily and just start reading. From there, as you get more into books and reading in general, you can make the choice whether to pick up your phone (let's be honest, this is a common way that we all waste time) or pick up your book.
For me, personally, I read in the mornings. I'm an early riser so I tend to get about thirty minutes of reading in each morning first thing as I'm drinking coffee. From there, I might read for 15 min or so during the day (lunch hour or while I'm getting a cup of tea). It's 50/50 on whether I take a book with me now and read while I'm doing the whole carpool waiting game. Sometimes, I just listen to a podcast and other times, I read. Then, most nights, I'll read again for fifteen minutes or so.
I don't sit for hours and hours, except for occasionally on a weekend when I'm wrapped up in a book. But, I'm able to finish books because I reach for them daily.
Anyways, hope that helps! I often hear from people that they just don't know where I find the time so I thought it'd be helpful to share.
Books Read in 2021
What I read in December
- Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane (4 Stars): If you are tired of fairytales and want to see real families go through real trials and come out the other side… this is the book. It kept me engaged and pulling for all the characters throughout.
- What is the Bible? How an Ancient Library or Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything by Rob Bell (4 Stars): I was listening to this so I'm not sure where this quote was pulled from in the book, but I keep coming back to it.... "Distributions are your catalyst for growth. You meet new people, you travel.. you see things you hadn’t seen before and you realize that your previous ways of categorizing, labeling and believing aren’t adequate. You have a choice in that moment. You ignore that experience or you make the choice to make the hard decision to go forward and embrace." As I've delved deeper into the Bible, past the general readings and stories, I've come up with more questions. More questions about how I grew up with the Bible and the literal way the whole Bible (during childhood) was taught. The more I hear and understand about who the Bible was written to, the history of the people at that time, etc., the more questions I have. But also, the closer I feel to it in general.
- Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (5 Stars): This is the type of book that will continually offer wisdom to you at different points in your life. I can see myself reading this at different seasons and really connecting with it in different ways.
- Dangerous Ground: My Friendship with a Serial Killer by M. Williams Phelps (3 Stars): I have so many thoughts on this book. First and foremost, the author calling his relationship with the serial killer a “friendship” struck me as weird. Yes, they did have a working relationship for many years, but that doesn’t register as a friendship to me. I didn’t know what to expect out of this book, but I was definitely caught off guard by the author sharing about his life and feelings and then switching to Jesperson’s story. Some parts seem to make sense and other parts were confusing. Overall, I’m left with the thought that the author put himself through so much anxiety and turmoil in making this book. To me, that feels like his priorities weren’t in the right place. On the flip side, maybe I would have felt different if he was able to help solve and find out who the Jane Doe in the story was.
- The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (3 Stars): It took me about 300 pages to get into this but, after that, I enjoyed it. If I was just rating the last half, it’d be 5 stars. I loved two of the three main characters and really enjoyed reading the author’s note at the end of the book about them.
- Eragon by Christopher Paolini (5 Stars): Read this with my 11 year old and it was fantastic. We loved the vivid imagery, character descriptions/developments and more. He’s super excited to continue reading the series. I haven’t decided whether I’ll continue reading but series or not but it was a good one to read together for sure.
- The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian (4 Stars): A slow-paced thriller that had me guessing at the end. I enjoyed it.
- Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile by Rob Bell and Don Golden (3 Stars): I keep coming back to Bell’s books because I agree with the themes of what he writes. This book had me engaged again with some of the connection points of the historical aspects of relationships in the Bible.
- How Dreams Speak: An Interactive Journey into Your Subconscious (150+ Symbols, Illustrated and Fully Explained) by Nicole Chilton (5 Stars): I connected so much to one of the first chapters of this book on types of dreams. I’ve had lucid dreams for years and had no idea what they were and what was happening. It was awesome to get more in-depth information on dream types and some of why dreams occur in the first place. As far as dream symbols and themes, I loved the descriptions of what certain dreams could portray as well as the illustrations. Some of my favorite pages were: glass house, caves and parades (cutest illustration ever). I’m not a deep thinker when it comes to my emotions. It was a bit shocking to me to think out of the box when it comes to dreams I’ve been having and what they could subconsciously mean. Growth is so good, as humans, and this book definitely helped me do that.
- American Spy by Lauren Wilkerson (3 Stars): This is a short read and I was pretty intrigued most of the time. The ending though…. I hated the whole dang ending.
- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (3 Stars): The writing style is unique with 2 pages or so per chapter. Some “chapters” pulled me in on life on Mango Street and others didn’t. Overall, it was interesting but I didn’t love it.
What I read in November
- I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf by Grant Snider (4 Stars): I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with comics. So, from that perspective, I enjoyed reading something different. As a reader, most of the comics in this were pretty funny. It would be a fun book to give to any reader in your life.
- The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz: A Powerful True Story of Hope and Survival by Thomas Give and Charlie Inglefield (5 Stars): I’ve read quite a few WWII memoirs and still, I can’t get past the horror of what happened. This book was a bit different than the others I’ve read, because instead of reading about an adult… you are reading about a child. A child living in concentration camps. A child surviving and coming out with hope for the future.
- Heart in the Highlands by Heidi Kimball (3 Stars): I’ve read a lot of historical romances, so I tend to be a harsh reviewer on them. I was in need of a palette cleanser; basically, a book that I could just enjoy. This was that. It’s wasn’t great in regards to the love story and the characters were just ok, but the book was enjoyable. I wouldn’t rave to my friends about it, but if you are looking for a decent historical fiction then you might try it.
- You'll Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe (4 Stars): This was engaging and interesting. I thought the formatting of the book was great. The added inserts and tables throughout each chapter were helpful. Learning more about how the United States government worked and operated was insightful. Learning more about George Washington and especially how he treated his slaves, was definitely disappointing though. As with us all, he was a flawed man that made some good changes to the world but also contributed his fair share of negative ones.
- The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters' Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory by Roxanne van Iperen (3 Stars): The way this book came to life is fascinating. The author moved into this old house out in the countryside and started renovating it. As the renovation was underway, she found secret hiding spots and remnants from WWII. The story followed two sisters and their efforts to keep their family safe during the Holocaust. As part of that resistance movement, they sheltered many people through the war and a big part of the book focused on that. Eventually, they were rounded up and sent with Anne Frank (who they knew) and her family to the concentration camps. Their story was gritty and beautiful. In the face of such despair, they were helping people; which is inspiring. For me, the book is a three stars based on how it was written. There were too many details and names to connect to which made the read a bit challenging.
What I read in October
- Home Body by Rupi Kaur (5 Stars): This is the third book I've read by Rupi. This one connected with me far more than the others. I love her poetry style and found the chapter divisions of this book (mind, heart, rest, and awake) to be interesting. I didn't connect as much to the poems in the mind chapter but really connected to most of them in the next three chapters. In the past, I felt like most of her work focused on trauma. This book had some poems about trauma but more anxiety, love, hope, being aware and rest. I can't get the following out of my head...
"no one on the planet
is in more denial
than the white man
who regardless of all
the evidence in front of him
still thinks racism and sexism
and all the world's pain don't exist"
- Natural Living Style: Inspirational Ideas for a Beautiful and Sustainable Home by Selina Lake (5 Stars): For someone who is interested in living a more sustainable life in a beautiful way, this book knocked it out of the park. I enjoyed the tips on which products were better for the environment (ie. linen and sisal) but also the home inspiration images that went along with it.
- The Devil in Vienna by Doris Orgel (2 Stars): Somehow, you are reading a diary of a young girl during WWII, yet you never really get a sense of who she is. The story followed two young girls (one Jewish and one whose father is a Nazi SS officer) as they navigated their friendship during a time where consequences would be massive to be friends. Overall, I just feel like you should feel more connected or know more about a main character and this book left much to be desired on that front.
- White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America by Anthea Butler (4 stars): I grew up in the Nazarene church with a very conservative family. Billy Graham, Promise Keepers and the idea that Christianity looks a specific way (consistent with Eurocentric cultural norms) were all very prominent in my upbringing. I found this book very enlightening. I'm a fan of history in general; but, honestly, I loved hearing more about the background of what role mainstream Christianity has played and is playing in politics in America. In the conclusion of the book, Butler states the following, "Why do people who identify as evangelicals vote over and over again for political figures who in speech and deed do not evince the Christian qualities that evangelicalism espouses? My answer is that evangelicalism is not a religious group at all. Rather, it is a nationalistic political movement whose purpose is to support the hegemony of white Christian men over and against the flourishing of others." Yep, I agree whole-heartedly with that. I also really agreed with the idea that Christian America expects Christianity to be culturally similar to their own culture. Anything outside of that, is wrong or weird. With that expectation, they have promoted the "whiteness of Christ" which has always really bugged me. The bit where she talked about cultural norms with Christianity, really had me agreeing. I think the more you travel, the more your eyes are opened and if you are staying in the bubble of America... you are doing the biggest disservice to yourself and others by continuing on with the narrow viewpoint of what you have been taught/embraced on all things, but especially religion.
- Books Make a Home: Elegant Ideas for Storing and Displaying Books by Damian Thompson (3 Stars): Although a bit dated now, this book had some beautiful tidbits in it. I enjoyed seeing lively libraries instead of the more staged, clean-lined libraries that you see today. These spaces were lived-in and loved and I think there’s something timeless in that itself.
- Once a Laird by Mary Jo Putney (1 Star): ** spoiler alert ** The setting of this book could have been magical but the author didn’t draw us in at all. The story took place on a remote island in Scotland but never once, did I feel like I was there experiencing the story. The story was about a young man who is called home to become the Laird (of which clan or who… who knows) after his grandfather passes away. He finds love immediately and with the sister of his first, childhood love. The end. Honestly, the book from start-to-finish was a huge letdown.
What I read in September
I read a lot of books in September. We took a family trip to rural Tennessee and listened to a few audiobooks along that road trip. I also think that life has felt a bit overwhelming lately and reading is a form of escape for me. I remember a few Friday nights this month where I shut my door and read (it's a wild life over here, lol).
- The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (4 Stars): Coming at the heels of his first book, The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides does it again. This book isn’t quite as good, but it was still a fun read. The ending came as a huge surprise, which was great.
- Cabin Style by Chase Reynolds Ewald (4 Stars): This was definitely high-end cabin inspiration. I’ll never hire an architect, hot spring pool designer from Japan and interior designer, BUT I still enjoyed seeing glimpses of spaces that were inspiring. I think there’s always something to learn when reading design books and this one was no exception.
- The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg (4 Stars): I saw someone review this book as a “hug in a book form” and I agree. The story follows an 80+ year old man as he continues in life after his wife passes. His love for her is always there but his love expands to those that enter his life in unexpected ways. I loved Arthur’s character. Maddy, a young teenage girl, unexpectedly moves in with him. To watch their relationship grow and flourish is so heartwarming.
- Bombshell by Sarah Maclean (2 Stars): I’m usually a big fan of historical fiction but, honestly, the whole story didn’t feel genuine to the time period.
- Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books by Nina Freudenberger (5 Stars): My dream is to have a library in my home and this book gave me tons of inspiration. I absolutely loved the background on each person, type of collector they were and photos of their home. I’ll be adding this to my collection for sure.
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (3 Stars): I’m struggling with how to review this. On one hand, some of the passages really spoke to me (and I’ve always loved quotes and sayings in general). For example: “You’ll never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” Another one is: “If you know about love, you must also know about the Soul of the World, because it’s made of love.” There were tidbits of beautiful poetry in this, but then there was also a disconnect (for me) when it came to following the story and enjoying it as it unfolded. Either way, it’s a simple, short read and probably worth your time to check out. You might love it and, if not, you’ll probably come away thinking through some of the more poetic parts of the book.
- Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetutate Racial Harm by Robin DiAngelo (3 Stars): I didn’t realize that this book is basically a going deeper version of the author’s first book, White Fragility. I didn’t read the first book and feel like that could have helped with some of the ideas that the author assumed the reader (me) had been exposed to. Parts of this book read like a textbook and were pretty hard to stay engaged with. Other parts, were great. She seemed to pull in a lot of quotes and snippets from other writers on this topic and I enjoyed those the most. I came away with a broader perspective on racial harm, patterns in our society, and ways to engage with the problem.
- The Afrominimalist's Guide to Living with Less by Christine Platt (3 Stars): I thought the author provided a new take on the minimalist lifestyle and I enjoyed hearing her personal anecdotes. That being said, I felt like the book could have been much shorter. Overall, the book felt repetitive and I found myself getting bored.
- Remember When by Judith McNaught (2 Stars): For romance, this author is one of my favorites but this book was so mundane. The storyline was easy to figure out and the romance was lacking.
- The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals by Clea Shearer (3 Stars): I’d recommend borrowing this from the library instead of buying it. There were some good tips in the book but it wasn’t as helpful as it could be. I would have liked to see unique product sources that were shown in some of the photos and there weren’t very many notes on that. Also, it made me feel a bit icky about all the “extra” things we accumulate and then need to manage. Overall, I enjoyed reading through it, but I came away with the idea that I want to own less, manage less and spend less instead of having this perfectly curated pantry, etc.
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K Rowling (3 Stars): For Harry Potter fans, this is a fun read. Also, I believe Jude Law is the narrator of Albus Dumbledore’s notes in the audiobook, which is cool. The book contains a few short fairy tales (wizard-style) with commentary from Albus between each story. We listened to the audiobook on a road trip and it was fun because they have sound effects and different voices for each story.
- Mark of the Thief by Jennifer Nielsen (5 Stars): I read this aloud with my 11 year old and we both really enjoyed it. It’s a story of a slave boy who gets mythical powers and fights against all odds. It weaves in Greek mythology, family strife and a longing to belong in a way that is entertaining and enjoyable.
- The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (4 Stars): Read this aloud to my 11 year old. It’s about a china rabbit who doesn’t know how to love. He learns over time how to love through the ups and downs of his life and those who love him. I thought this was beautifully written and the ending was just perfect.
- The Golden Bull by Marjorie Cowley (4 Stars): This story is set in 2600 BC in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). I loved getting to glimpse in on what life could have been like during that time. This story follows a brother and sister as their life takes twists and turns because of a drought. From slavery to meeting a high priestess, this story was short but well-done. I read this book because my son (who is homeschooled) is learning about the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia and life in ancient civilizations. I’m so glad that it was on our list to read though. Even though it’s historical fiction, I learned a lot and it was fascinating.
What I read in August
Two of the books that I read this month were on the longer side (A Promised Land and For Which We Stand) and were great, but took longer to digest. I say that to say that I didn't get to read a ton of fiction this month, but I'm looking forward to more next month. =)
- A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal by Sarah Bessey (5 Stars): I wanted to slowly go through each prayer but found myself not wanting to put the book down. I loved this so much. It’s definitely a book to buy. Get out your highlighters and write on the margins.
- The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar (3.5 Stars): It’s a quick read about a woman who loves her library, her husband and her friends and wants to save them during WWII.
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama (4 Stars): Every American should read this. It doesn’t matter if you agreed with his politics or not, you’ll come away with a human understanding of what it takes to be President. I’m more appreciative of President Obama now after reading this and know you’ll be as well.
- For Which We Stand: How Our Government Works and Why It Matters by Jeff Foster (4 Stars): Read this with my 11-year-old but I’d recommend this to all adults as well. We BOTH learned so much! Would recommend for sure.
- Maroo of the Winter Caves by Ann Turnbull (3 Stars): I read this with my 11-year-old as part of a homeschool curriculum to help teach about ancient civilizations. For that, it was helpful. As a stand-alone book, to read on your own, there was a lot of context missing and the plot could have been better.
What I read in July
I finished a few audiobooks that I had started (some with Greyson) over our trips to Utah and Alabama. I also wrapped up a few other books that I had been slowly making progress on; so this month was filled to the brim with reading (mostly nonfiction).
- Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts (4 Stars): I would have loved to hear more personal stories about the author’s travels. That being said, I enjoyed the book as-is, too.
- The Arsonists' City by Hala Alyan (5 stars): The first 75 pages were a bit slow because I was trying to keep track of who all the people were. Honestly, there’s a lot of characters to keep track of, which was a tad annoying, but it did feel like you needed all of them to tell the story. The story is told over dual timelines and follows one family’s life in Lebanon, Syria and the U.S. From choices that were made as children to choices as grandparents, I was drawn in over and over again.
- The Omniovore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollen (2 Stars): I wanted to love this book but it was a struggle for me to get through it. Parts of it were utterly fascinating. Understanding more about corn and how we (America) puts corn products in just about everything was eye opening. Pastoral farming was a new-to-me term, so I enjoyed hearing about that as well. Overall though, I just couldn’t get into this book. The concept was good, but the voice of the author just wasn’t for me. I will say that I'm in the minority for my rating on this one. Most people LOVE this book.
- The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (3 Stars): I thought I’d love this but, honestly, the book was so short. It felt like a simplified version of the movie. I never love a movie more than the book but, in this case, I did.
- Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (4 Stars): I knew nothing about North Korea before reading this. It’s honestly horrific what North Korean’s have lived through. This book followed the story of a few individuals and what their lives were like as they lived in North Korea. All of them were able to cross the border into China and then make it to South Korea. Based off the numbers in the book though, they were the lucky ones.
- Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell (3 Stars): Listened to this as an audiobook with Greyson and it gave us lots to chat about. I’ve been behind the idea that love is the universal thread that Jesus wanted us to take from him for quite some time. So, that part of the book, wasn’t surprising for me. Parts of Bell’s interpretation of religions around the world and how people can be reached for Christ without knowing the western version of Christianity was really interesting. I would have loved to hear him talk more in-depth on that for sure.
- A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson (3 Stars): Greyson and I listened to this on a road trip. I loved the first half of the book. I didn’t know anything about the Appalachian Trail before reading this, so definitely enjoyed the insights into the trail itself. Anyways, the stories that happened on the trail during the first half of the book were funny and engaging. The second half, the author seemed to struggle with wanting to continue on the trail and that's about the same way I felt about continuing the book. Overall, I’m glad I finished it but it could have been better.
- Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic by Esther Perel (3 Stars): Thought I’d love this since I LOVE her podcast: Where Should We Begin. Ultimately, I wanted the same format as her podcast. This was a weird mix of therapy clients and self-help monologues and I just thought it was lacking.
- Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith (3 Stars): I read this as a read-aloud to my 11 year old. We enjoyed learning more about history (and the WASP program) but found this story to be pretty slow. By the end, we wanted to know the ending, for sure, but we didn’t love it.
- The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett (4 Stars): I read this with my 11 year old. He literally laughed out loud in a few parts and was eager to read the rest of the series. As an adult, I could have passed on this book. It’s definitely geared towards kids and their humor. Giving it four stars though because the intended audience liked it.
What I read in June
- Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (4 Stars): I kinda hate to rate this as high as a four because it was so incredibly dark and creepy. I really want to say that I didn’t like it but I couldn’t put it down. If you love disturbing, psychological thrillers then this might be a hit for you.
- A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum (4 Stars): This book brought up so many emotions and thoughts. It left me curious to know more about Palestinian-American women. Not knowing much about their culture and religion, I still felt the characters were believable. The threads of immigration, family, oppression and hope that there is something better out there; all definitely struck a chord with me.
- Mercy (Buchanan-Renard #2) by Julie Garwood (1 Star): I thought this was too predictable. I’ve read a few of her other books that are connected to this series and enjoyed them. This one, unfortunately, just didn’t engage me.
- The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (3 Stars): I really like the idea of this book but, ultimately, found this one repetitive and boring. The idea that each of our choices create different paths that our lives could go on is still intriguing to me. However, I think that if the main character lived in more of those lives (like she did at the end with Ash and her daughter), it would have connected more with me.
- Born of Night (The League: Nemesis Rising #1) by Sherrilyn Kenyon (4 Stars): I’m not sure I’ve read any futuristic, paranormal, romance books before. My rating may have to do more with that than how good the book actually was. Either way, it was definitely a guilty-pleasure, steamy romance. I’m occasionally down for one of those and this fit the bill.
What I read in May
- Made for Living: Eclectic Interiors for All Sorts of Styles by Amber Lewis (3 Stars): I thought I genuinely loved Amber’s style, but after reading through her book, I’m not so sure. All the spaces in this book are absolutely beautiful yet they all seem to be lacking interest and personality. The styling was the exact same throughout the book, which was a bit boring. It’s a beautiful coffee table book for sure, but as for design, I’m not as impressed.
- Us Against You (Beartown #2) by Fredrick Backman (5 Stars): The perfect sequel to Beartown. I’m honestly shocked that I loved this because there’s just so many characters to follow. If you liked Beartown, then this is a must-read. You got to know each of the characters better and I found myself just smitten (again) with the author’s writing style.
- The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty (4 Stars): The main characters aren't as likable as you'd usually want (in my opinion) but maybe that's what made this book so intriguing? I enjoyed it and am still thinking about the ending.
- Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (4 Stars): I'm usually not a fan of dual timelines but, for this book, it really made sense. I've read a lot of historical fiction set in WWII but this one was different in so many ways.
- Highland Cross Fire (Campbell Trilogy #3.5) by Monica McCarty (3 Stars): First off, Monica McCarty is my favorite historical romance author so if you haven't checked her out... please do, but start at the beginning of her Highland books. She's magical with weaving characters through the books and you really have to start at the beginning to understand each character and who is family to whom. For this particular book, I really wish it wasn't a novella. I've followed these characters for years and I just wanted more. I loved this series overall but wanted way more of this story that what I got.
- The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Steward (5 Stars): I read this aloud to my 11 year old and we both loved it. The characters were interesting, the puzzles were fun and it left us wanting more.
What I read in April
- The Lines We Leave Behind by Eliza Graham (4 Stars): For some reason, this was a slower read for me but took me on a journey of feelings and thoughts. The book follows a young woman and her life as she finds love, risks her life during wartime, commits a serious crime and is admitted to an insane asylum (all in the 1940s). There were quite a few minor and major characters but I thought they were all really well done.
- Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (5 Stars): I was so caught up in this story. A young girl immigrates to the U.S. with her mother and the story follows her as she struggles to fit in at school, work in a factory at night and find the American dream.
- Rules of Civility by Amor Towels (4 Stars): I’m torn on my review of this book. Honestly, it’s probably a 3.5, if that was an option. Parts of it, I LOVED and parts were too descriptive. The main character, Katey, I loved. Being a single woman in Manhattan in the 1930s and just living her life was fun to witness. The overall storyline was great in some areas and less than stellar in others but overall, I enjoyed it.
- Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted by Kristi Nelson (1 Star): This book was part memoir and part self-help but neither part was very good.
- The Lying Game by Ruth Ware (3 Stars): This was a very slow thriller (is that a thing?). I was intrigued by the storyline throughout but wasn’t engaged until the last fifty pages or so. It follows a group of girls and their relationship at boarding school. At some point, the “lying game” that they make up takes a deadly turn. It was just ok overall.
- Salt Slow by Julia Armfield (1 Star): A collection of short stories that were all dark and weird. The writing style felt really beautiful but I couldn’t get into any of the stories themselves.
- Old Home Love by Andy Meredith (3 Stars): This is definitely a book to borrow, not buy. There isn’t enough content in the book to be super valuable. I love the concept of the book - loving on old homes and renovating them. I wish each house represented in this book showed more. Most houses in this book only had three photographs that were tightly photographed at that (meaning a small angle). If there were more photographs of each house, more insight, etc., I would have loved this.
- Share Your Stuff. I'll go First: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level by Laura Tremaine (4 Stars): Part memoir and part self-help. I felt like some of the chapters were redundant yet I enjoyed them all!
- A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen (4 Stars): I read this aloud to my 11-year-old and we both enjoyed it. He said it was 5 stars. I wished that there was a bit more history interwoven in the story about the Berlin Wall. Overall, we were both engaged and liked it.
- On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (4 Stars): I read this as a read-aloud with my 11-year-old. He LOVED it and I didn't. My rating reflects his thoughts on it (I would have given it 3 stars). If you are into fantasy juvenile fiction, this might be for you. It follows siblings as they embark to save themselves from fangs (which are lizard-like creatures trying to hurt them).
What I read in March
- The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Catalan (4 Stars): I didn’t know the background of asylums and psychiatry in the US until this book. I honestly can’t believe that just about 50 years ago, we were still doing lobotomies and other horrible procedures to “cure” mental illness. The background on all of that was eye opening. The rest of the book about David Rosenhan’s pseudo-patients and whether or not he was “The Great Pretender” was really up and down for me. I enjoyed parts of it but other areas felt disjointed. Some of the research and writing style made parts of the story hard to follow. Overall, I’m glad I read this though.
- The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (5 Stars): This book drew me in and was beautifully written. It follows Dinah’s life (the daughter of Leah and Jacob, from the Bible) and shows the power of loss, love, grief, anger, jealousy, etc. Honestly, now, I have to go re-read the Bible story to see what was fictionally altered. Anyways. Read this. Just read this.
- The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason (3 Stars): I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, yet I haven’t read many from the early 1900s. I really enjoyed the first half of the book. The story followed a young man and his life as a war doctor. Actually, he was still a medical student who was thrust, early, into becoming a practicing doctor. His emotions were on full display and I thought the first half of the book was really good. The second half though, wasn’t nearly as good. He gets relocated to different hospitals and from there, the family relations, love interests, etc, just aren’t as compelling.
- Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom by Lisa-Jo Baker (1 Star): I tend to like memoirs and motherhood tidbits but this just didn’t speak to me.
- The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (4 Stars): Kristin Hannah does it again with this story. It’s based during the time of the dust bowl and follows the story of a young woman named Elsa. She’s lonely and unloved as a child and then lonely and unloved as a married woman until she finds family and connection with her in-laws and children. She migrates west and finds more hardship, impossible choices and purpose. Overall, I didn’t feel like this book was quite as fluid as some of Hannah’s other books but it was still well-written and enjoyable.
- The Alchemyst : The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott (3 Stars): I read this as a read-aloud with my 11-year-old. He rated it as 4 stars and I gave it a 2. Here’s the deal... If you know background on Greek mythology and like fantasy, then it might be a good fit for you. He LOVES all things Greek mythology. I, on the other hand, know very little about it and so didn’t get the references to it throughout the book. You can read it without knowing about Greek mythology but it’s not as strong of a read. At the end, the author did go into detail about the characters in the book and how they were either based on real life or Greek mythology. We both found that so interesting.
- The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons #2) by Julia Quinn (4 Stars): Netflix got me hooked on this series. I actually think that this one is better than the first book. Honestly, it’s a pretty standard historical fiction, but enjoyable.
- Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (4 Stars): I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up and started reading it. The first half of the book follows a mother and her life as the mom of three kids and wife to a doctor. The second half, follows her life as it changes when tragedy strikes her family. Her thoughts and emotions throughout the book definitely resonated with me. If you pick this one up, just know that it’s heavy with grief.
What I read in February
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (3 Stars): I would say that my rating has more to do with not being the intended audience for this book instead of the quality of the book. For any aspiring authors, I think this book would be highly regarded. For me, it was a little too much detail for the interest I have in writing. Overall though, I enjoyed his story and some of the more technical chapters on writing.
- Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman (2 Stars): I wanted this to be good and, although it kept my attention, it wasn’t great. But, it is a NYT Bestseller, so what do I know?! I kept waiting on the suspense to build, the plot to deepen, the excitement level to go through the roof and that just didn’t happen. If you want a mediocre thriller to pass time then this might be it but otherwise, I’d pass.
- Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel (4 Stars): If you want a primer on different personality tests and how they can help you better understand those you live and interact with then this is perfect. I felt like this gave me better insight into my family and was an easy read.
- After Innocence by Brenda Joyce (2 Stars): This was a historical romance set in the early 1900s. If you are interested in NYC and the east coast wealthy society of the early 1900s then you might like this, as it was written about that time period.
- The (Almost) Zero Waste Guide: 100+ Tips for Reducing Your Waste Without Changing Your Life by Melanie Mannarino (3 Stars): This was a good entry-level book on reducing waste. I had heard most of the tips in here but I think it’s always good to be reminded/convicted of some of the things that we can do to improve our world. After reading this, I think I’m going to start a rain barrel to water my indoor plants!
- Torn Thread by Anne Isaacs (5 Stars): I read this as a read-aloud with my 11-year-old. It’s based on a true story. The book centers around two sisters who are preteens and their story as they try to survive a work camp during the holocaust. This was definitely written to be age appropriate for younger kids (5-7th grade) but also didn’t shy away from some of the horrors that went on during the war.
- The Duke and I (Bridgertons #1) by Julia Quinn (3 Stars): I never think movies/shows are better than the books they portray but, in this case, that is true. Netflix knocked this series out of the park and reading the book after watching it, was a bit of a letdown.
- Chiefs Kingdom: The Official Story of the 2019 Championship Season by Michael MacCambridge (5 Stars): The intro from Andy Reid was so good! The book reads as a play-by-play, which is fun. Definitely a book to cherish. As I was reading it, it was fun to remember what it felt like to be in the stands for most of those games.
- The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (3 Stars): This was a slow read for me but I stayed curious about the storyline throughout. The idea of a spiritual/romantic love and how they played out was interesting; although, the ending fell flat for me.
- Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin (2 Stars): I kept hearing about this book (and it's rated almost five starts on Amazon!), so I decided to pick it up. Honestly, for me, it wasn’t great. I have a healthy viewpoint on saving versus spending and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing my life just to work. For someone who is unhappy with their life, day-to-day and how work/money plays into that... this might be a good fit.
Overall, I feel like my reading picks for February were so weird. A few of the holds that I had requested at the library all came available at the same time, so I think that's why I ended up with so many self-help type books.
For next month, I'm ready to pick up some easy-to-read fiction books. Hopefully, I find a few that are great!
What I Read in January
- She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild by Gale Straub (2 Stars): The synopsis of the book is that it is a compilation of beautiful imagery and great personal narratives of women who are exploring out in the wild. For me, it was a bit of a let-down. Personally, I didn't love the imagery. There is a filter or overlay on each, making them a bit dull. I view a collection of "stories" as more than one small page per story. I would have loved to read each story about each woman's personal adventure and life focus and really understand/see the story. You just can't get that done with just one to two pages per person. Ultimately, I didn't feel connected to the adventures or the individual stories because each was just too short.
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (2 Stars): I read this with my eleven-year-old and, as an introduction to what a dystopian world looks like, we liked it. But, for this to be considered a "classic" and a "must-read"... I'd totally disagree. Overall, we felt like it was too descriptive in ways that didn't matter and was just boring. If you are looking to introduce dystopian fiction to your kiddos, you might pick it up but, for us, we could have passed and been fine.
- Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Webter (4 Stars): Nadia was honest, gruff and some of her metaphors were just so spot-on for me. I think she'd highly offend most of the people who are in my life who are conservative Christians. Personally though, I thought her story, her faith, hearing about liturgy, etc. was great!
- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (4 Stars): I kept hearing about this book and it won a Pulitzer Price in 2009. For me, it wasn't a book that you can read in a day. It's a book that you really have to marinate on. It centers around the main character, Olive Kitteridge and takes us through her life (over a time span of about forty years or so). What she experiences during that time span are pieces of life that are so true yet often not written about. Her grief, her love, her life... it rang so incredibly true to me. I definitely enjoyed the book, but it's also sad.
- The Wives by Tarryn Fisher (3 Stars): I couldn't relate to the main character at all. During the first half of the book, I was constantly wondering why/how she'd be ok with a polygamist marriage. So, the first half was all about her feelings and what it looked like to see her husband one day per week. The second half, she becomes obsessed with finding out who the other wives are (because she doesn't know them). From there, the twists and turns are unbelievable and, although I was more intrigued at the end... it still wasn't great.
- Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor (5 Stars): As someone who has struggled with the Christian theology that you "just need to have more faith" or "pray harder," this book was exactly what I needed. From sitting in the dark (physically and spiritually) and learning to accept yourself there; it all rings true. I can't wait to read more by her.
- Ember Falls (The Green Ember Series #2) by S.D. Smith (4 Stars): First off, this is a middle grade children's fiction series that Greyson (who is 11) has been obsessed with. As something we both like, I occasionally will read books that he's loved so we can talk about them. This (and the following books) are just that. So, here's my thoughts... This was good. The last ¼ of the book, I literally couldn't put down and I had to know what was going on with the rabbit resistance and the two rabbits, Heather and Picket and how the story of the young heir developed.
- Ember Rising (The Green Ember Series #3) by S.D. Smith (4 Stars): There continues to be a lot of characters to keep up with, but it's such a well-written series. This book further develops Heather and Picket's story and makes you want/crave that happy ending but leaves you not sure how the whole series is going to end.
- Ember's End (The Green Ember Series #4) by S.D. Smith (4 Stars): For someone who likes a series to end well, I was definitely pleased with the ending. If you like fantasy and are a fan of young adult novels, definitely try this series out.
I'll continue to update this list of books of 2021 each month as the month ends. If you read something you love, leave me a comment below... I'd love to check it out. And, if you've read any of the books above... what did you think?
p.s. If you want to see what I read last year (there were some great ones!), check out my book list for 2020.