A Mixed Bag…

…of reviews this time around, so let’s go!


The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel is just compulsively readable. Twenty-seven years ago, Christopher Knight walked into the Maine woods, and remained there – alone and with no human contact – until he was arrested for stealing from nearby cabins nearly three decades later. This nonfiction work (clocking in at barely 200 pages) is about his survival, the hunt to find him, and the aftermath of his arrest. So, SO interesting and thought provoking!

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking just rang all my bells. ๐Ÿ™‚ This pocket non-fiction work is all about how Danes – the happiest people on earth – get happy and live well! I’m pretty “hygge” in a lot of things, and was delighted to read about how powerful hot drinks, candles, warm surroundings, friends and a cozy sweater can make for a happy person. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Duke by Kerrigan Byrne is the fourth novel in her Victorian Rebels series – and I’m such a fan of her novels! I love that her dashing heroes are often the flawed ones, that the women have spirit and drive, and that the writing is always sharp, funny and just enough sexy. Love her!

I also read Hotelles by Emma Mars – yeah, sure, erotic romance, but it felt in a lot of ways like it was trying entirely too hard to be high brow and shocking and thought provoking. Or maybe it’s just that it’s French. *small shrug* Probably won’t read the rest of the trilogy…

YA Novels

I love a good young adult novel, as y’all know, so here are the latest I’ve checked out…


Girls Like Me by Lola StVil was just….swoony and sweet and so easy to read. ๐Ÿ™‚ Written first in verse, then in text messages and chats, this novel’s style took a bit of getting used to, but then I devoured it in an evening. She’s the hilarious, overweight shy girl with the crush on the jock, and he’s… the perfect boy on the other side of the screen. Will they meet? Won’t they? Love, love, love. ๐Ÿ™‚

You in Five Acts by Una La Marche also took some getting used to. Each chapter is from a different character’s point of view, and you spent time trying to figure out who is the “you” they are referring to in their particular part of the story. Still, I got sucked into this Fame-for-the-new-generation story, and did NOT see the ending coming. Great for kids with a zen for theatre, dance, drama or a fresh and unique story.

Die For You by Amy Fellner Dominy... just didn’t blaze any new ground.Emma and Dillon are soooo in love in high school, but as she tries to pursue her dream in life, Dillon pulls her back. This felt like a totally recycled teenage abusive relationship story, with weird plot points kinda shoved in. (Now I’m showing my age… reminded me of the movie Fear with hunktastic Marky Mark. And not as compelling – Marky Mark or not. *grin*)

I also just finished listening to Sting by Sandra Brown – not young adult, but still a decent listen, but a bit slower than her last few novels, at least for me…

Read Harder Challenge : 2017


So, I’ve long been a devotee of the “All the Books” podcast from BookRiot (Rebecca and Liberty’s book reviews are EVERYTHING), and when they mentioned the 2017 Read Harder challenge, I knew I had to check it out!

In short: do 24 reading tasks over the course of the year. Books may count for multiple tasks, or you can read one book per task. I don’t know how I’ll do, but I’m eager to try it out – and I’m already on my way!

How about you – any good reading challenges you’ve set for this year?

(My other personal goal is to try and get back to reading 150+ books read a year – I’ve been slacking the last couple of years….)


  1. Read a book about sports.
  2. Read a debut novel. (Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin)
  3. Read a book about books. (My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul)
  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. (Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce)
  6. Read an all-ages comic.
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
  8. Read a travel memoir. (Bleaker House by Nell Stevens)
  9. Read a book you’ve read before. (The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin)
  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. (The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot)
  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. (The Dry by Jane Harper)
  12. Read a fantasy novel.
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
  14. Read a book about war. (Flowers for Hitler by Ilse Horacek)
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. (If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo)
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged.
  17. Read a classic by an author of color.
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
  19. Read a book in which the character of color goes on a spiritual journey.
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel. (After the Flood by Alexis Hall)
  21. Read a book published by a micropress.
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (Difficult Women by Roxane Gay)
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (The Mothers by Brit Bennett)

New Year, New Reviews

January has *flown* by, friends, don’t you agree? Johnna has been gearing up to go back to school after spending some days in FRANCE, the lucky duck, and Marissa has been getting back into the work swing after her Christmas holiday in Vegas. And of course… there have been books. Here’s the latest…


The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson was just a hypnotic read. The prose was just so, so good and I got pulled into the story completely. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective (and y’all know I am HERE for that), and in a nutshell, is about students in high school near San Francisco – from the newly minted English teacher to the jock to the quiet, shy girl, everyone takes a turn in bringing the story to fruition. Hard to categorize, but so easy to recommend – check this one out!

Spaceman by Mike Massimino is the astronaut’s memoir, and what a fun, fascinating read! Told in a completely conversational style, this is all about Massimino’s unlikely journey from Long Island to the space shuttle, and it’s just so engaging, interesting, and fun! I’m a space nerd, so this is totally my wheelhouse, but I think anyone with even a vague interest in our space program would dig this easy memoir.

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson was hotly anticipated by those of us at the library that devoured his previous work, The Kind Worth Killing. This was another suspenseful read with alternating points of view (and not all of them reliable), but I found the writing a bit more… draggy than the other novel. LOTS of exposition, lots of just napping/reading/wandering around, without the propulsion of TKWK… but I still totally got into it. Perfect for suspense fans!

I also read Today Will Be Different by Maria Stemple… yes, I chuckled at some points, but mostly I wondered why her novels have been hailed as the second coming of literature. I found it disjointed, odd, unsympathetic in a lot of ways, and just… not my jam. Wrong book, wrong time?

Unconventional Christmas

So, for reasons that don’t bear repeating, my friend Jen and I found ourselves at loose ends, trying to figure out how to separately celebrate Christmas when the traditions we were used to were changing this year.

So, we put our heads together and decided a girls trip was in order.

And where should a couple of girls go for the most extravagant, over -the-top holiday possible on a budget?


(If you haven’t done Vegas at Christmas, you should! So much decorating!)

Jen had never ventured to the big city (I’ve actually been five times. No, I’m not a compulsive gambler…), so we eagerly jetted off and I couldn’t wait to show her around all the glitz and immensity of Vegas. We stayed at the Linq, right on the center strip (great hotel, and perfect location!) – it was great!

We put miles and miles on our shoes exploring every casino… meeting dolphins and big kitties, eyeing sharks and stingrays… hitting the penny slots (and winning!)… exploring and spending time in the Venetian, including a leisurely couple of lunches in St. Mark’s Square (best.pizza.I’ve.had.outside.Italy.)… admiring the Bellagio Conservatory… visiting the Atomic Test Museum… and I even put my brave girl pants and accompanied Jen to the top of the Eiffel Tower! What an amazing experience!

We ย ate well, walked much, gambled some, and gawked a ton, and overall had a great time!


Until next time… thanks, Las Vegas!

First Reviews of the New Year

I’m slowly digging myself out of my major, major reading slump, so let’s see what’s been on the nightstand so far in 2017…


The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot is just so… Meg Cabot. And I love it. ๐Ÿ™‚ He’s a pro golfer, she’s a professional organizer, and they were hot and heavy back in high school… so the sparks are gonna fly when he comes back home, right? Right. *grin* I LOVED all the (southern) Indiana references, all the characters, and of course, I’m a sucker for an episotlary novel, so this one rang all my bells. Can’t wait for the next adult title to cross my desk!

Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce was my Book of the Month club pick (because, hello, Liberty recommended it), but it was either too weird for me, or was wrong book at the wrong time, because I think I spent most of the time with my forehead wrinkled reading it. It sounded like an interesting premise – Japanese-American girl kills classmate and is sent away – but ended up really stilted and emotionless and filled with completely unsympathetic characters. There was literally no one I was rooting for. If I had to do it again, I’d take a pass on this one…

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is such a great young adult novel for anyone going through, or trying to understand, what it means to be a transgender teen. Amanda used to be Andrew, and after a year off, is going to a new high school, and is trying to navigate her new identity, her attraction to a fellow classmate, and long-standing family tensions. I thought this was sensitive, thoughtful, and tugged at the heartstrings. Recommended!

I also read I Do It With the Lights On, Whitney Way Thore‘s new memoir (much more thoughtful and serious than I anticipated), as well as a new short from Gillian Flynn, The Grownup. I loved the irrerverance and twists of it, but I want to know what the resolution is! *whines*


Another Season Passes….

As we begged off previously, the last couple of months have just flown by: the holidays, travels, work, school, and everything in between. Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Seeing James Patterson speak at a library conference… walking in our city’s holiday parade (The antlers LITย UP. It was everything.)… speechifying at a local fundraiser… running a wine pull to make money to give away for grant projects… watching Gilmore Girls with Johnna… rockin’ some new glasses… celebrating the holidays (and Rogue One!)… training the most amazing Relay rockstars in the state… misty mornings… and of course, ringing in 2017 with Johnna! I miss my bestie – we need to stop being so busy, darn it!

How’s your winter been, friends?