Posts Tagged With: books

Top 12 Favorite Books of 2020 (so far)

If there can be one good thing said about 2020 (and that’s a stretch, I know) it’s that it has given me a reason to double down on my reading. I have been positively devouring books this year and am proud to say I’ve finished 78 so far. Since we’re halfway through this delight of a year, I thought I would highlight some of my absolute favorites!

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

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You’re a good man, Linus Baker. I’m so very pleased to know you.

There may not be as accurate of a statement than this in the entire world. This book -guys, this BOOK. It’s like a dose of rainbow, sunshine, sprinkle glitter love happiness straight to the pleasure center. It’s beautiful.

Honestly, I want to write everything and yet nothing at all. You don’t need to know anything, you just need to read this book.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

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This is a truly wonderful book. Gah – I wish I could go back in time and read this as a young adult because it would have had even that much more POW.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

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This is a fantastic book that should be read. Not only it is well written with personal stories and facts of cases, it’s properly balanced with success and failure. It’s not a story about only innocent people being released – it’s about criminals getting appropriate representation as well. I really appreciated that this didn’t just feel like a giant pat on the back, but it was the emphasis on how the broken system breaks individuals – and breaks those people of color even more disproportionately.

All in all, a great read.

Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

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Undercover Bromance is a “great big manly hug huddle” (those are Lyssa Kay Adam’s words, not mine) and it’s and amazing 5/5 star book.

These books – they just GET me. I had legit belly laughs. I mean, the man-hating rooster? The banter? Heck, I was even belly laughing from FART jokes (I kid you not). It’s fun and funny and the relationships – romantic and friendship – are SO GOOD.

Can’t help it. Love these. Want more.

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

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Confession: I have never, not once, seen an episode of the Bachelor. Which I assume this book is a literary version of.

Guys – this is the equivalent of a romantic “who dun it” – you literally can’t guess who the murderer, I mean, perfect lover is! I mean, okay, I guess I could but I also couldn’t. I’m not spoiling this for you but it’s kind of amazing.

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

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Heaaaaarts, rainbowsssss, and sunshine.

That’s what I feel about this book. I adored it. I giggled – a LOT. The characters are delightful, the setting adorable, there’s some very satisfying sexy time and ogling, etc, etc. Basically, it was right up my alley and I highly recommend.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

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If Sue Monk Kidd hadn’t written this book I NEVER would have picked it up. No way, no how. I have as little connection to any religion as possible – I was raised in the US and therefore have those Christian influences to my society, but had nothing by the way of religious education. For example – it wasn’t until the end of the book that I found out Anna was fictional. Ha!

So – yes, from a topic, not typically one of interest to me. And honestly there were parts that were a bit dry in the book or that I didn’t quite “get” because my lack of knowledge. But the essence of it… the drive Sue Monk Kidd put into the story and the protagonist. Anna is a storm to be reckoned with and merged with the society in which she lived – it was beautiful. The fact that Anna really was the center of this story, and the most interesting of the characters, and she was married to Jesus is pretty outstanding for the author, I have to say.

Overall, a truly great read and another example of the artwork that is Sue Monk Kidd’s writing.

The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup

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Wow – this was truly excellent. Complex without being confusing, unique without being unbelievable, and horrifying without being gross. Great characters who have enough of their own issues to be interesting but not so much so that they are distracting. I truly didn’t guess the ending. All in all, I very top notch crime thriller!

Beach Read by Emily Henry

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Welp, that was perfect.

And, for the record, I usually really dislike stories where the character is a writer. And this one had two writers.

It’s still perfect.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

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Ok – yeah, I was really skeptical about this book. The premise is bizarre and, honestly, after reading it, the premise is still really bizarre.

But, man, I liked it! The style of the narration is amazing, I wanted to quote about half of it. I love the main character and just the way she IS. The way she responds and adapts to the strange circumstances she’s put it is fascinating.

It’s super quirky and it’s a book that gave me a lot of thoughts and feels. And that’s how I’m leaving that review.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

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Well, I should know better than to read what is the first in what is very clearly going to be a series so soon after it is published. I want to read the next one immediately and now I have to wait 😦

This is great – it raw and unique and Alex Stern is a bada**. I had a little trouble getting into it at the beginning and, frankly, it’s a dense book. I was trying to read it quickly but it takes a lot of mind power – there is a LOT that goes on here. That’s not a bad thing, it’s actually really good, but get ready for the investment.

All in all, Bardugo hit another one out of the park.

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

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What an excellent book. I blew through this in a single day – which is no small feat in the chaos that is my life.

Maybe it’s just me, but I love when I come across a book where everything just works. The story is perfectly paced and snappy with action, dialogue, introspection, and magic. The character relationships are genuine and heartfelt – the main characters, Ryn and Ellis, are beautiful and flawed. The problems they face are real and unique. This is such a fascinating story that I have – and haven’t – heard before.

Oh – and it’s a zombie book, so, you know, that makes is automatically awesome.
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My Favorite Books from Diverse Authors (a never-ending list)

Out of pain you can sometimes find beauty and the continued push to celebrate and welcome art from people of color is one of those examples. I’d love to take the opportunity to highlight some of my favorite books written by non-white authors!

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

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Gold. This one, guys, is GOLD.

Let me tell you a story. I was reading late, husband asleep next to me (easily my favorite aspect of my kindle – night reading!) and came across a particular scene that involved dialogue relating to a non-vomit (you’ll understand when you read it) and I lost it. Like, truly lost it. Silent snort laughing, desperately trying not to wait said husband, crying because I was trying not to laugh, lost it.

Zaf and Dani are SO good. Their dialogue is amazing, their interactions are perfect, their troubles are real – it’s seriously such a solid book. And I wasn’t 100% sold on the first Brown sister, Chloe. But don’t short yourself and read this one, even if you skip the first. Because it’s truly excellent.

Death Wish by Harper A. Brooks

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Overall, this book was really engaging and interesting. A couple parts were maybe a bit of a stretch but overall I was able to get into the story. Great pacing and characterization. I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the series.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

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I’m not sure I can say much more about this than what almost 500,000 other people have said on Good Reads but this is an exceptional memoir.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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I was able to read this via audible, with Maya Angelou as the narrator – and what a great highlight that made to the reading! It’s a powerful book with such an impressive scope. The items she chooses to showcase from her life are ones that were clearly not only impactful to her, but also become impactful to the reader, which I think is the key to a good memoir. She was able to reflect on the activities of her youth and how they shaped her, how they color her experience, and how they might cause the reader to understand herself, her society, and even our own selves. I can imagine reading this multiple times and discovering something new each time. A great experience and a great read.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Highly deserving of all the praise. This is a truly timely book that features intense situations, incredible characters, and an emotionally jarring and well timed story line. Honestly, a book that is very close to perfection. Highly recommend.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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This book is SO GOOD. So, so good. What an incredibly fascinating and funny insight into growing up in South Africa. It was quick read that perfectly balanced some hard truths with the antics of a young man growing into adulthood. Absolutely phenomenal.

Angelfall by Susan Ee

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Angelfall, for me, was about the plot line. It was interesting, unique, and it was quick. I hate books that feel the need to explain everything and this isn’t one of those. You learn as you go and new questions are always coming up. It’s well designed and even though some of the character development was a little shallow, or at least predictable, I enjoyed it all the same.

My (Underground) American Dream by Julissa Arce

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I really enjoyed this memoir – I was able to hear Julissa speak in Chicago for HACE and her story is incredible and memorable. It is so timely and brave as well – definitely one to read.

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

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Overall, a really well put together novel. I like that it took place all in one day. I didn’t love the interjections of other people’s short backgrounds, though, by the end, I understood why it was there. I feel like the tone of the book kept me distanced just a tad so as to not make it a 5 star but, otherwise, I’m really glad I finally picked this one up.

Sex, Murder, and a Double Latte by Kyra Davis

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This book is what I love about chick-lit. It’s silly and sassy and exciting and a read that you can breeze through in just a few days. I’m a firm believer that a story you can get sucked into – silly or not – is a fun story.

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James

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To say this book is intense is a significant understatement. Add to that some incredible narration and you have a book that is going to draw you in. To be honest I’m not quite sure what to say about the book – it doesn’t skim past the hard parts, it’s going to blindside you in many ways. It’s one of those books that you know is good but you can’t really say you ENJOYED reading.

This is a never-ending list! I’ll keep adding my favorites as I read them and I would LOVE your recommendations on books to read next!

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The BEST RomCom Books (an ever expanding list)

I am a no-shame RomCom lover and is there a better time to get into a few of these fun, delightful reads than in the midst of a global pandemic? I think not!

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
SO funny. Literally laughing out loud on multiple occasions. It’s cute if a few part of the trope seem a little forced but the force of these characters – Luc and Oliver are so relatable and believable. Top notch read.

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Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Gold. This one, guys, is GOLD. It’s steamy, it’s hysterical. Zan and Dani are so good. Their dialogue is amazing, their interactions are perfect, and their troubles are real.

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Beach Read by Emily Henry
Honestly just so good. Excellent banter, real life issues… you laugh, your cry, and you can 1000% picture this as a Lifetime movie (in all the best ways)

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The Bromance Book Club and Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams
What do I look for in a romance novel?
1) Giggles
2) Spicy scenes that’ll make me squirmy
3) At least a little bit of heart
This series had all of that and then some. What amazing books. I seriously guffawed, numerous times, over the dialogue in both of these books. LOVE them.

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The Friend Zone and The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
Another two-fer! These are both excellent books with vibrant characters who have real problems and lots of love. Plenty of giggle-worthy moments. Highly recommend.

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Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
So. aptly. named. The characters are in high school so definitely YA but delightful nonetheless. A+ banter and, well, cuteness.

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My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
Sophie Kinsella is pretty much my idol. I have adored multiple of her books but this is one of the latest and also one of my favorites. It’s light but also one that will speak to you.

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Well Met by Jen DeLuca
Heaaaaarts, rainbowsssss, and sunshine.
That’s what I feel about this book. I adored it. I giggled – a LOT. The characters are delightful, the setting adorable, there’s some very satisfying sexy time and ogling, etc, etc. Basically, it was right up my alley and I highly recommend.

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Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Okay, so first off, any NaNoWriMo book has a special place in my heart. But on top of this, it’s an adorable YA novel with a great setting and unique circumstances. While not perfect, it’s cute and easy to get into. Bonus – it’s a series and the rest are adorable too!

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The UnHoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Is there a better trope than two dissimilar people somehow ending up on a vacation together? I THINK NOT.

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Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
This one is a bit deeper than you typical RomCom but I really liked not only the premise but the characters. It felt really authentic and had the main protagonists communicating like I think real humans would actually communicate (shocking!)

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Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston
Mainstream LBTQ? Ugh, love it. That being said, this was a little too Disney ending for me but at the end of the day, that’s not a complaint.

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The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker
Confession people – I have RE-READ this one. I knooow! Mostly for one particularly epic scene involving a cabin and a yeti… this book gets delightfully spicy but doesn’t cross into the true “romance” category.

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
I really enjoy the new flavor of the main character. He’s not your standard knight in shining armor – it’s endearing and energizing to see a new kind of protagonist, one with a “social handicap” so-to-speak. In that respect this story has some truly deeper ideas about love, how it manifests, as our expectations of ourselves AND others.

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Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
An oldie but a goodie. Are there issues here (re: weight concerns that are sooo not concerns, etc)? Yes. But I love the writing style immensely.

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What am I missing? What should be my next RomCom read?

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Best Coffee Shops to Work from in San Antonio, Texas

When Zoe and I get together our main objectives are bookstores, coffee shops, and good food.

San Antonio did not disappoint! Here are the top locations we found that were excellent spots to hunker down, open up the laptop, and be productive.

Here are our rankings:

1) Press Coffee4035 Broadway St, San Antonio

Cute upper level Table at Press Coffee

We love Press place so much, we spent 2 out of 3 of our mornings there. The coffee itself was top notch – I personally had a hazelnut latte and it was spot on with taste and foam and all around yum. Our decision to share a cinnamon roll left me with regret, only because I really didn’t want to share.

But, guys, the venue. It’s beautiful unique building with all kinds of lush vegetation. Plenty of cute and unique seating with fun little multi-level hideaways. It was a bit chilly both the mornings we were there but there were 3 different patio spots that made for lots of outdoor seating while still being intimate. Definitely a must stop.

2) Candlelight Coffeehouse3011 N St Mary’s St, San Antonio

Board games available at Candelight! Couldn’t resist a little Battleship

This was my happy place. First to note – this is an evening coffee bar. It’s 4pm-12am most days and has a full bar. But it’s so much more! I can’t even begin to rank what I loved the most about this place so I’ll just make a laundry list: the patio was HUGE and amazing with quirky artwork throughout, the inside had tables and then multiple couches to provide perfect relaxation and friend time. Cool artwork, our tea was served in tea pots with strainers (and was DELICIOUS) and they have a Cake Bar. A CAKE BAR PEOPLE THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

The Cake Bar!

It was brilliant and lovely and best of all inclusive and I think I fell in love with a bar.

3) Local Coffee (at Pearl) – 302 Pearl Pkwy, San Antonio

View from our perch at Local Coffee

When you walk into this coffee shop, you may feel like you’ve been here before. Quintessentially hipster with a minimal menu – they may have had bakery items but I didn’t partake. It looked to me what Starbucks probably looked at before it became Starbucks. But the drinks were good (I had a chai and it was top notch) with a good amount of indoor seating. But I didn’t stay indoors, opting for one of the many tables in the cuteness of the square that is Pearl.

Zoe and I actually stumbled upon this place and were flabbergasted – the whole Pearl area and concept was adorable and should have been our first destination in town and yet we never saw it in any of the blogs we found. Highly recommend bopping around this adorable spot.

4) Rosella at the Rand – 114 E Houston St, San Antonio

Loved those half moon booths

Upscale little spot with easy parking downtown – we shared a plate of warm brie (drooool) and both got lavender chai lattes. One of their half circle booths was available that had an easy outlet for a good working session. They didn’t mind us camping out at all, though it’s possible they have their busier times and will want you to turn over the table. Still – a few good outdoor work locations too made this an excellent nice location to be.

5) Summer Moon Coffee – 3233 N St Mary’s St #102, San Antonio

This one is from their Frisco location but same great coffee!

There are a few Summer Moon locations around Texas. They are well known for their super-secret homemade cream that is to die for. I sampled their Cinnamon Latte which was excellent and then the true “Summer moon” which is a ton of cream with a shot of espresso. It was basically like drinking a melted milkshake and I was in some kind of heaven.

The location we found wasn’t the cutest – with a drive thru window it seems to be more of a convenience type of location. But there were plenty of seats, with even a few outdoors (though not much to look at besides the parking lot). Still, definitely an easy place to spend the morning getting through those work emails.

6) Crepeccino – 5500 Babcock Rd #104, San Antonio

This is a crepe shop and a coffee shop and it’s like my whole world combined into one beautiful, amazing pinpoint. It’s a smidge “further afield” and even though it has cute decor inside it is in one of those strip malls which made the experience a little harsh. But, other than the overly large aspect, we had an amazing savory (chicken alfredo?!) crepe with a top notch little side salad and followed it up with a truly happy dance worthy 3-chocolate crepe.

3 chocolate crepe!

Beauty and taste – who could ask for more? With more than enough seating and strong wifi it was a great spot off point.

7) Hayclon Southtown1414 S Alamo St, San Antonio

Chai at Hayclon – served with a few animal crackers!

Still along the river walk but one the path-less-traveled side, we really enjoyed Hayclon. Very hip and industrial, they advertised a drag brunch that I wanted to switch my flight to stay and watch. They had a very good crowd when we arrived right at brunch time on Saturday so we didn’t pull out the laptops, but we did see others working. We pretty much just focused on the food (my breakfast burrito was SO good) and drink. It was one of those places where you just knew every item on the menu would be spectacular.

Our only disappointment was we saw a ‘make your own smores’ on the website but it wasn’t part of brunch. We didn’t beg, so, I assume if you begged you could maybe get it, but we decided we weren’t hungry enough. It was close though – because let me tell you, the picture looked amazing.

If you come here to work, you might want to avoid the brunch hour as I personally would have felt a little strange trying to camp there at that time, but there were a few couches that seemed up for grabs (though they were full) and some great outdoor space as well, they just might have a calmer vibe any other time of the day.

We only had a few days so – what did we miss?!

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6 beautiful book covers (with equally incredible stories inside)

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The beauty of this cover is a little non-traditional, but I love it. You’ll learn it tells a bit about the story inside and it’s just so eye-catching.  Books with male main characters sometimes get the shaft when it comes to beautiful covers but this one did a great job. And then there are the words – it’s a page turning, heart-thumping historical fiction that highlights a time I wasn’t familiar with.  It’s worthy of its reputation.

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This is a historical fiction that will make you wonder if it actually happened. It was so expertly woven, the truth and tales of the times intermingled with the fiction so beautifully, I thought it had to be true. I adored this (audio) book. It’s a historical fiction that reads like a mystery. I knew the instant I picked this up it would be a winner of my heart: Spain, flamenco, and ballet? It’s like Alexandra knew what draws me to a story and decide to put it all into one place – beautifully at that. If you don’t already have a soft spot for any of those items, you’ll be hard pressed to walk away from this tale without one.

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The story behind this beautiful cover will surprise you. As flowery at this story appears, the book is definitely not for the weak of heart, which is part of the reason I like it so much. Furnivall took me by surprise nearly around every corner – no one quite reacted the way I thought they were and the plot twists themselves were numerous but elegant.

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I’m a sucker for colorful towns on the water, so maybe this cover doesn’t appeal to everyone. I also love the font.  Did I mention I love the story too? This book is amazing. The characters are beautiful. The story line unfolds in front of you perfectly and seamlessly and yet with a new surprise around every corner. You truly feel like you are reading about lives, not just characters in a book. It’s undeniably poetic and equally real.

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Probably one of my favorite things about YA books is that they always have incredible covers.  I was then so pleasantly surprised to find the inside was wonderful, too. I love this book’s imagination, the colors, the scenes. It’s all so beautiful. The setting is incredible – Prague, the art studio, Poison. Even better are the people! Humans, angels, and creatures – they are all fascinating. Taylor does such a great job of showing me everything without overloading me with exposition. I can see so much, and I don’t even think that’s because I’ve traveled to many of the places (Prague and Marrakesh being two main settings – gorgeous on paper and in real life!).

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Here’s another YA fantasy series that is worth it’s weight to the eyes and the imagination. This series is unique and beautiful. I like the flavor of the setting. I love the back and forth between suspense and life. I like our main character and how we get deep but not too deep. I like the conflicting romance and, even more, I like what took me by surprise. Characters evolved in great ways. Bardugo had my hand quivering at a page turn because I didn’t want to see what would happen next and that’s what I want out of a really good YA book.

What did I miss?  What’s your favorite beautiful book?

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Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See – 3/5

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Man, I am so in the minority here. Sorry, guys, but I just did not find myself enjoying this book.

Maybe it’s because at this point I have read a decent amount of WWII books. I dabble in a lot of historical fiction set in Europe during that time, and I’ve also found about an equal amount of memoirs or biographies as well. It might not be fair to compare the books but in all the ones I’ve read this one just really fell short for me.

What was it missing? I don’t know exactly. It took a really long time for me as a reader to see the connection between the stories, and, in reality, I still don’t really see it. Yes, paths crossed but… why do I care again? I guess there was impact, kind of, but it just didn’t feel meaningful to me. The timeline jumps around which, I guess, is to make the story not feel like its unfolding as slowly as it is, but it didn’t fool me at all. I kept waiting for something unpredictable to happen but it all just fell more or less into place. I also thought the story of a blind girl would be more poetic. I don’t think Doerr did a poor job, but it wasn’t as different as I expected it to be.

I really should have loved this book. I’m a sucker for WWII stories, historical fiction in general, and, to top it all off, I’ve been to (and am in LOVE with) the town of St. Malo. Just having that as a setting should have caused me to fall in love but instead it was like I was kept at arms length. I just didn’t really connect with anyone, nothing shocked me, and even the hardships of war didn’t hit me like they should have.

Sorry, Doerr. It’s not that it was bad, per se, and I did enjoy the last few chapters when finally, finally it all seemed to come together (though not to any real satisfaction) but the rest of it just felt flat to me. I can’t say I would recommend this book. I’ve much sooner refer someone to read The Invisible Bridge. Now that is one hell of a WWII historical fiction.

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Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible – 4/5

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books I resisted picking up because I didn’t know what to expect. Books that talk about religion – good or bad – tend to make me antsy. I know next to nothing about any religion so I wasn’t sure how this would sit. Obviously, it sat well.

Kingsolver is such a fantastic writer. Politics and opinions in the book aside, she did an incredible job of making this story come alive. The Poisonwood Bible is told from the perspective of five different females whose lives are wholly changed by, truthfully, one man – the father of the family. I love how differently Africa changed each of them – turning inward, turning out, growth, death, and even stasis. I think we all have (or will have) an experience in our lives that change us forever. It was fascinating to see one event change so many characters.

Kingsolver’s writing is poetry. The way she describes not only the atmosphere and setting but also the thoughts are incredible. Each female voice is incredibly distinctive. Adah and Ruth May are particularly wonderful to read. I was able to enjoy this book on audio and the narrator is phenomenal. The way she does Rachel – it’s perfection.

For me, I think the book should have ended prior to the girls growing up. This is the distinction for me between five and four stars. The end of the book, while still enjoyable, gets political. Whether I think one way or another about it, when it’s a historical fiction novel, it’s hard to know what is fact and what is opinion. I liked seeing how the women turned out, but part of me wanted to stay back in the Congo, too.

This book is art, and I loved listening to the words wash over me. There’s a reason its well known and it’s worth your time and effort to experience Kingsolver’s style.

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YA Book Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone – 5 of 5!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To those of you who pick up this book – I recommend you buy/borrow the other two from the trilogy at the same time. You’re going to want to read them all in quick succession.

I borrowed this book from the library and read it in a day. Within about three minutes of closing the book I was online, confirming the others were on the shelf, and walking back to the library to borrow the other two. It’s that good, folks!

I love this book’s imagination, the colors, the scenes. It’s all so beautiful. The setting is incredible – Prague, the art studio, Poison. Even better are the people! Humans, angels, and creatures – they are all fascinating. Taylor does such a great job of showing me everything without overloading me with exposition. I can see so much, and I don’t even think that’s because I’ve traveled to many of the places (Prague and Marrakesh being two main settings – gorgeous on paper and in real life!).

Then there’s a plot. It has the scary angels which fascinate me (quick plug for how awesome Angelfall is) along with just as fascinating underworld beings. I love the way you’re not sure who is good and who is bad. The action is intense on both a large and a small scale. Both the reader and the main character, Karou, spend the book trying to figure out who she is – and what connection she has to the (potentially) imminent end to the world. That’s a plot hook if I ever heard of one!

Okay, enough of this internet business – I need to crack open book #2!

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