New Non-Fic Reads


We all know that I tend to be a fiction girl at heart, but in the last year or so, I’ve been trying to read a bit more nonfiction. Here’s what’s crossed my path lately…

–Marissa

Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden was just… so perfectly Joe Biden, and everyone loves Joe Biden. This is two tales in one… the tale of his son Beau’s fight against brain cancer, and also about Joe’s impact and work while serving in the White House with President Obama. Personal, poignant, and easy to read, this is a fantastic memoir for anyone who was invested in the “Biden Years” of the White House.

After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry was a BOTM pick and, while it took my awhile to read it, it was a very interesting memoir. Sarah was but 12 years old when someone came into her home and murdered her mother while she was in her bedroom sleeping. Told in present day then in past tense, you really learn about how this one incident changes so many lives.

Home Sweet Maison by Danielle Postel-Vinay (due out in March) is my kind of book… a look into how other live in their very European countries – this one specifically about how the French decorate and inhabit their homes. A bit dry at times, but this helps satisfy my occasional itch for books about hygge/living in Tuscany/cooking in France. 🙂

I also read the Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo… this is literally a graphic novelized version of her tenets – very cute and easy to read! Finding My Badass Self by Sherry Stanfa-Stanley was just a fun read for me – a fiftyish woman takes on 52 different dares or tasks in the course of a year. Fun and funny!

 

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Look Back at Fall/Winter…

Where does the time GO, y’all?! It feels like autumn and the end of 2017 came and went in a flash! Johnna and I have both been busy with commitments (work, school, volunteering, etc.) but hope to have our lives – or semblance of them! – back soon. We DID manage to go on a epic girls-only vacation (more about that in a future post!), and took our guys to a fun light show for Christmas (more on that in the future too!). What else have I been up to? Well… I’ve…

…finished a new stained glass quilt for my office… we celebrated New Year’s in style… gotten some beautiful Christmas flowers from my boo…  went to the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular in Louisville… spent a concert weekend in Chicago… ate LOTS of bento boxes at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Japanese place… tried my hand at (guided) painting… and hung out with my boy and my dog… the days just fly by! Happy New Year!

–Marissa

2017 Reading Roundup

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Per tradition, it’s time for my annual wrap-up of all the books I read in 2017! Here’s how I did this past year…

–Marissa
Number of books read in 2016: 131 titles
Number of books read in 2016 (for comparison): 133 titles
Average of books read per month: 11 books
Average of books read per week: 2.5 books
Daily average: 1 book read every 2.7 days
Percent of fiction read: 78%
Percent of nonfiction read: 22%
Number of YA books read: 17
Number of audiobooks read: 7
Number of books read on the Kindle: 32

And now, for the best books of the year (in my humble opinion, of course!), in author alphabetical order… my benchmark is always… “did this book stick with me? Do I still remember the characters? Did I think about it after I closed the cover?”…
Benjamin, Chloe. The Immortalists. F, K.
Connelly, Michael. The Wrong Side of Goodbye. F, AB.
Dickinson, Amy. Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things. NF.
Finkel, Michael. The Stranger in the Woods. NF.
Green, John. Turtles All the Way Down. F, YA.
Harper, Jane. Force of Nature. F, K.
Hendricks, Greer and Pekkanen, Sarah. The Wife Between Us. F, K.
Hesse, Monica. American Fire. NF.
Jones, Tayari. An American Marriage. F, K.
Lehane, Dennis. Since We Fell. F.
Lockhart, E. Genuine Fraud. YA.
Maynard, Joyce. The Best of Us. NF.
Ng, Celeste. Little Fires Everywhere. F.
Phillips, Gin. Fierce Kingdom. F.
Riggs, Nina. The Bright Hour. NF.
Vance, J.D. Hillbilly Elegy. NF.
Westover, Tara. Educated. NF, K.

What were your favorite reads this year that I should add to my TBR list?

And as for the Book Riot “Read Harder” challenge… I did pretty darn well! I only feel short in a couple of places, and this definitely pushed me to try some other lit I normally wouldn’t have. Yay challenges!

  1. Read a book about sports. (Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald)
  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. (The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne and Veronica Fish)
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. (The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner)
  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. (Spaceman by Mike Massimino)
  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. (The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton)
  17. Read a classic by an author of color. (Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead)
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. (Faith by Jody Houser)
  19. Read a book in which the character of color goes on a spiritual journey. (Dear Martin by Nic Stone)
  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. (The Sea and the Bells by Pablo Neruda)
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (The Mothers by Brit Bennett)

Easy Peasy…


Don’t get me wrong, I love a good meaty, sink-your-teeth-in novel, but sometimes, you need an easy “palate cleanser”… so here are a few of those I’ve been reading…

–Marissa

Hygge and Kisses by Clara Christensen claims to be the first “hygge” novel, and is *exactly* what you would expect… harried London girl, bad relationship status, lost in her early twenties goes to a Danish cabin, cooks, relaxes, falls in love, yada yada. Very treacly, but easy and comforting as well!

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin was a very cute, epistolary (texts and emails) young adult/new adult novel about two best friends going to school on opposite sides of the country and growing up… but will they grow apart? Very cute, very easy to read, good recommendation for somewhat reluctant new adult (female) readers…

The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn was an easy memoir to dip in and out of while on vacation. Emily had a great job, fiancee, and apartment in Chicago when, in the blink of an eye, it all went away. She then went on a journey to meet friends and family old and new, and break bread with them. Easy reading… and tasty recipes!

I also read Hardcore Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich (just like cotton candy… fun while it lasts, then totally forgettable)… Stone Fox Bride by Molly Rosen Guy (wedding advice from all across the spectrum of people)…  The Wicked + the Divine by Gillen McKelvie and Wilson Cowles is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel, that completely and utterly confused and annoyed me… and finally I read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, a graphic novel that I actually was able to read!

Suspenseful Titles…


I don’t generally think of myself as someone who reads a ton of suspense, but I’ve had a few lately that definitely fall into that category…

–Marissa

The Wife by Alafair Burke is a great stand-alone from this author (also check out her Ellie Hatcher series), and is very timely… the perfect-seeming marriage, until an accusation of sexual harassment makes the secrets of a marriage surface… no spoilers, but it’s a good one!

Down a Dark Road by Linda Castillo is another solid entry in the Kate Burkholder series, this time featuring the murder of a wife, and the accused being a childhood friend of Kate’s… I listened to this one, so it wasn’t the same experience as reading it, but I enjoyed it, as with the rest of the series!

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly is another Harry Bosch novel, and I listened to it narrated by Titus Welliver, who IS Bosch to me now. This novel has two “mysteries”… a long ago missing heir, and a present-day villain who is terrorizing women. I love spending time with Bosch!

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances (due out 1/30/18) is like a car crash… you want to look away, but you can’t. Laura leads an idyllic life, and dotes on her son Daniel. But when twenty-something Daniel finds his first real, serious girlfriend, they will both compete for attention… and will stop at nothing to cut each other down. I wanted to like it more than I did, but it was still car-crashy. 🙂

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond was the right combination of thought-provoking, dishy and suspenseful (though, if I’m honest, could have used an editor and been much shorter). Alice and Jake join “The Pact”, which aims to keep married couples together… and go to *any* lengths to make it happen. A good psychological suspense pick!

Nothing Stays Buried by PJ Tracy is the latest in the Monkeewrench series, which I love, and this time features a serial killer, a farm, and the intrepid Monkeewrench series. I love the unlikely protagonists of this series, and was ever so sad to hear that PJ (the mother of this mother-daughter writing duo) passed away last December. 😦

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall is another timely read. George is an adored science teacher in the school system where his daughter Sadie is a student. When George is arrested on charges of sexual misconduct, his whole family must cope with the situation, and the reader spends the whole book wondering what is true and what is false. A timely, well-written read.

Big Press Titles


*Where* has the time gone, friends? It’s suddenly only days until the end of 2017, and I’m nowhere near my usual goal of 150ish books read… but I feel like I’ve been reading oodles, including some titles yet to be released. Let’s see what’s been on the Kindle lately (that digital downloading for librarians is a RABBIT HOLE, my friends. The very best kind, of course.)

–Marissa

Let’s see…

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (to be released 1/9/18) has been getting mega press, and was named the top LibraryReads pick for January. This took me a bit to get into, but what a way to weave a story. The children of one family visit a soothsayer, if you will, and learn their death dates… but will it change how they live? Each quarter of the book focuses on a different sibling, but they are definitely all tied together. Great for fans of character-driven, decades-spanning, well-written fiction.

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn is already a media darling, and doesn’t come out until 1/2/18… but *everyone* is buzzing on this one, movie rights already sold, etc etc. In short, Anna is confined to her New York City apartment but begins watching the family across the way… until she witnesses a crime. This is a twisty, unreliable, well-told suspense novel in the vein of the best Hitchcock movies. Read it – everyone else is!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green is just… I mean, it’s John Green. Amazing, heartbreaking, revealing, awesome. I already want to re-read it, slower this time, to savor all the angst and pain told through the narrator…

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (due out 1/9/18) was un-put-downable for me! I initially picked it up because of Pekkanen’s name on the cover, but oh my word, I couldn’t stop reading! I can’t summarize this one, for it risks spoilers, but this is a fantastic, twisty, well-told suspense novel with particular appeal to women. Highly recommended!

Eternal Life by Dara Horn has also landed on the LibraryReads list for January (released on 1/23/18), and though I read it, I wouldn’t say it was a top read for me, despite the promising premise. Rachel keeps living her life over and over after promising eternal life 2000 years ago to save her son. It just… it just wasn’t what I wanted out of it, but lots of other folks are digging it!

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (due out 2/6/18) was sooooo good and I couldn’t stop reading it. The voices of the narrators are *so* strong and compelling, as is the story… Roy and Celestial are newlyweds, when Roy is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. If the person you love is behind bars, can your marriage survive? Told in alternating points of view (so good!), this is really fascinating, well-written reading. Highly recommended!

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell (to be released 2/6/18) is such an interesting premise for a memoir… O’Farrell details 17 times in which her life was in danger from childhood to adulthood as a way to comfort her daughter, who struggles with medical issues. Super, super fast to read, each essay reminded me that, in particular, women are vulnerable each and every day to other people, illness, and ourselves.

Educated by Tara Westover (due out 2/20/18) is already a media darling, and with good reason. This memoir details Westover’s unbelievable (that’s the only word I can think of) survivalist childhood growing up in Utah… without ever going to school. Miraculously, she escapes her childhood home and thrives in a school environment, while still struggling to still be a part of her family. I was horrified by the family dynamics and disdain for basic medical practices, and my heart broke when Tara got to college only to discover how much she *didn’t* know about the world. I stayed up late finishing this one…

Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates (release date is 1/9/18) was definitely another page-turner that’s definitely dark and twisty. Alternating between childhood in 1982 and grown-up life in 2008, this novel intertwines three teens who are bound together by a senseless crime, which keeps reverberating throughout their lives. To tell anymore would spoil it, but just trust me… this is going to be a big spring title.

Lotsa Titles…


Time for another lightning round of book reviews, friends! Let’s do this – even though I’m apparently super critical today! 😛

–Marissa

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo is a slim novel set in 1990s Nigeria… Yejide and Akin are happily married, but (unhappily) childless. When Akin’s family intervenes, Akin comes home… with a second wife with the intention of fathering a child for their family. This novel jumps back and forth in time, with several twists and turns I didn’t see coming. A very absorbing, quick read!

The Visitors by Catherine Burns is definitely a slow-burning, gothic novel that has been billed as a cross between Room and Grey Gardens. Marion (fifties, never married, frumpy) has lived her whole life with her brother John in a derelict house left to them by their parents… and she’s never been in the basement, despite her suspicions of her brother’s secrets down there. Creepy and weird – but a fast, fast read!

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton…. I admit it, I’ve never read it, okay! And now I have! 🙂

Hanna Who Fell From the Sky by Christopher Meades is the story of Hanna, who has never left her community of Clearhaven, where polygamy is the norm and many eligible young men are sent away. Days before her wedding to a much older man, Hanna discovers a power of her own – and has to decide what to do with it. I liked it and I read quickly, but I didn’t *love* it as much as I could have…

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter I was SO excited about… only to honestly be disappointed. 😦 I really struggled to read this novel about a lawyer who goes home to her small Indiana town to investigate some environmental concerns a la Erin Brockovich. By the end, I was skimming… I just didn’t empathize, root for or care about any of the characters. Bummer. (Released on November 7th)

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders was an audiobook listen for me. Look, I’m just going to say it: it was deeply, deeply, DEEPLY weird and boring and I didn’t like it. Shoot me.

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby sounded like SUCH my wheelhouse… band of misfits in a foreign place (Antarctica) where hilarity and weirdness would ensue… but, the plot got so bogged down in minutiae and excess characters and just… tedium, that I couldn’t finish it. Double bummer!

Artemis by Andy Weir was just… fun! Following up his epic tale of The Martian, Weir ably worldbuilds a community on the Moon, complete with tourists, workers, permanent residents and just enough weirdos to keep it interesting. Enter Jazz – a porter who doubles as a smuggler. When she’s given a task that will earn her oodles of money, she can’t refuse despite the risks. Cut some MacGyvering, some science, a lot of talk from a woman who’s supposed to be in her twenties but talks like a horny seventeen year old boy, one-liners and excitement, and you’ve got Artemis. Just a fun, rollicking read with great world-building! (Released on November 14th)