What I Read…

Halfway through November… This month has been SO busy for us. The first half of the month was filled with parties (our Halloween one and a surprise party for my mother-in-law!) and the second half will be lots of travel. Whew!

Also- happy birthday to my bro-in-law, Josh!

On October 31st at 11:59pm Erin’s 9.0 Book Challenge came to an end
AND I FINALLY COMPLETED IT!!!

To say I’m thrilled and proud of myself and ecstatic would be an understatement. I started doing book challenges when I began blogging. In my very first challenge I read ONE book. I’m so glad I finished this one!

Ok, on to the books… Linking up with Steph & Jana obvi for Show Us Your Books!

Roomies by Christina Lauren
★★★★/5 
When a marriage of convenience brings Holland closer to her crush of 6 months AND helps both him and her Uncle Robert out, she’s determined to make it happen. But a lot can go wrong when love & citizenship are on the line. 
This romance was one of convenience. (I think I might enjoy the hate to love/gruff male character stories the best- this was not that.) I loved Holland’s name and I loved that she often thought of others. Her best friend was an ass and I was sad to see that play out like it did, but her uncles were wonderful. Her brother was, too. I love when the main (female) lead has a good tribe. The romance itself was ok. Fast and slow, then fast and slow again. I didn’t mind that- it was different. I kind of enjoyed the theater/musical aspect, too. I’m not a huge fan of the self-conscious protagonist. I get it, but still not a fan.
Also, Calvin was Irish and I constantly found myself repeating his words aloud to try to say them with an accent. I also laughed out loud MANY times. It was a funny book.
Should you read it? If you enjoy contemporary romance, yes.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
★★★★★/5 
A twisted fairytale about a brave queen, an evil sorceress, and the curses & choices we’re dealt.
I really loved this little fairytale- it was definitely a little dark and twisty, though quite surface level and quick to get through. The illustrations were 100% necessary and I think fantasy-loving teens would cruise through this book & fully enjoy it. There aren’t any names assigned to anyone, but the Snow White-based queen was blunt and badass, and I really liked her “just do it” attitude. The twist on the Sleeping Beauty story caught me off guard and I ate that up, too. It was a pretty cut and dry fairytale with no backstory (although you could piece in traditional information from the original fairytales), and I’d have loved to know more about the queen’s thoughts, but it was very enjoyable for what it was.
Should you read it? If you like fairytales, yes!
*Thanks to Alexandra for this recommendation!

84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff
★★★★★/5 
A (true) collection of letter between writer & book lover Helen and the staff at a small English bookstore located along Charing Road, spanning from 1949 to 1969. 
(If you loved The Guernsey Lit & PPP Society request this book from your library now.) This collection of letters between Helen Hanff, Frank Doel, and all the characters at the bookshop (and beyond) creates the most witty, humorous, heartwarming story of long distance friendship and generosity. The fact that these were real people writing letters 50+ years ago during war and recontruction and elections and Beatlemania is so strange to think about! And Helen’s real life wit and sarcasm was THE best. I loved how quickly and smartly she formed a friendship with Frank. And her generosity through the years of (UK) rations, as well as her love for the books she received, was so contagious and endearing. I started this short nonfiction one night and finished it the next day. It was wonderful.
Should you read it? Yes, it was quick and witty and heartwarming.
*Thanks to Michelle for this recommendation!

After Alice by Gregory Maguire
★/5 
A tale of post-Alice, both in England and in Wonderland. Alice’s sister Lydia, her friend Ada, & Ada’s governess are all directly affected by Alice’s sudden and alarming disappearance.
Hot damn, I hated this book. I should’ve quit it but it’s an AiW retelling and I felt like I needed to swallow it whole since I’m a diehard fan of the OG. I think Maguire and I just aren’t meant to be friends. (I’ve tried and failed to read Wicked three times.) The majority of GoodReads agrees with me on this particular novel. The story was boring and uninspired, the writing was pretentious and wordy, the characters were completely unlikable (except Siam). How can Lewis Carroll write a book in 1865 that is so whimsical and easy to understand and get lost in… and then Maguire write something in 2015 that is wordy and uppity and too “proper” for its own good?! He totally ruined the retelling. It could’ve been cool, but it wasn’t.
Should you read it? NOPE.

Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman
★★★★/5 
Gaiman’s retelling of the old tale, complete with spooky sketches.
I didn’t realize this was going to be kid-book-short. It’s a very quick read. It’s spooky and dark, though, so I don’t know that kids under 8 or 10 should be exposed. (I’m not a parent- I honestly have no clue.) I loved the illustrations and I like the small changes Gaiman made. I really, really enjoyed the background information on the tried and true tale of Hansel and Gretel. I read this the day before Halloween and it was perfect timing!
Should you read it? Sure. It’s very short and a nice little read for fairy tale lovers.

How to Be a Perfect Christian by The Babylon Bee
DNF/5 
Similar to The Onion, this satirical how-to guide helps one to see the fault in their ways and fully come to understand how to be the perfect church-goer and Child of God.
Mmm… this book really wasn’t my cup of tea. I know lots of Christians love it but this was a good for you, not for me kind of read.
Should you read it? I don’t know. Check out the reviews on GR and decide.

ERIN’S 9.0 CHALLENGE RESULTS

|5 points| Freebie: Roomies by Christina Lauren*
|10 points| Starts with the letter N: Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen
|10 points| Has a mostly orange color: A Tyranny of Petticoats by various authors
|15 points| A book with an unlikable character: An Act of Villainy by Ashley Weaver
|20 points| From 100 books PBS calls “The Great American Read”HP & the Prisoner of Azkaban(illustrated version) by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| Related to water in the title: On A Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell
|25 points| Owned/TBR the longest (GoodReads): The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
|30 points| An emotion word in the title: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
|30 points| Each word in the title begins with the same letter: After Alice by Gregory Maguire
|35 points| A book featuring a character who shares your profession or similar one (i.e. does the same kind of thing as you do day to day): The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

I’m so happy! 200 out of 200 points!!
*Formerly One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

So tell me what you read this month! Have you ever participated in a book challenge? Are you a fan of Gregory Maguire’s writing?

Life According to Steph

What I Read…

I was one of those weirdos that enjoyed school for the learning aspect. With the exception of my roommates, my favorite part about college was time in the classrooms. I loved taking notes, writing stories/essays, and learning new things.

I did NOT love how little time I had for pleasure reading. I’m very grateful to be out of school and free of the obligatory text book reading. Bring on the fun books 🙂

This month I only finished 2 books. We had some crazy travel & work weeks. Linking up for Show Us Your Books with Steph & Jana!

Not So Nice Guy by R.S. Grey
★★★/5 
Sam & Ian are co-workers, teachers, best friends, and NOT dating. But when all the teachers find out that Ian and Sam are both on the market, their relationship becomes a little more complicated.
Ehh… This was more like a 2.5 star book but I round up. I won’t lie- the END of romance novels are usually the best part. Or at least the last third of the book. It’s where the sparks typically fly & catch everything on fire. I actually enjoyed the first half of this book WAY more than the second half. The romance was weird and almost too friendly-to-lovey. And that’s coming from someone whose own romance went from friends to lovers. Ian wasn’t appealing to me at all. He was moody and touchy (personality-wise, not physically). I didn’t like that. Also, Sam was kind of tough on herself appearance-wise when it came to Ian’s amazing awesome attractiveness. *eyeroll* Girl- if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Don’t worry about being in his sex appeal shadow- move out the shade and soak in that sun. But I digress.
Should you read it? I would say no… It’s not my cup of tea romance-wise. If you’re a HUGE friends-to-lovers fan then maybe.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
★★★★★/5 
Days before Harry enters his third year at Hogwarts, the notorious Sirius Black escapes Azkaban prison. Everyone’s worried that he’s after Harry but Harry just wants to pass his classes and win the Quidditch cup.
This has always been my very favorite HP book. While Jo definitely ties books 1 & 2 into the whole series, I feel like we really start to get into the history and core story with this book. I love the introduction of Sirius and Remus with this book. When you’ve read this story before, I feel like you find a large chunk of the book frustrating. Oh well- deep, strong feelings are what makes the world of HP wonderful. What’s your favorite HP book? I’m really really loving my journey of rereading the illustrated versions as they’re released. They’re SO beautiful!
Should you read it? Duh, but only after you’ve finished the first two books!

*On Thursday I will share my Thoughts While Rereading HP & the PoA!

|5 points| Freebie: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
|10 points| Starts with the letter N: Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen
|10 points| Has a mostly orange color: A Tyranny of Petticoats by various authors
|15 points| A book with an unlikable character: An Act of Villainy by Ashley Weaver*
|20 points| From 100 books PBS calls “The Great American Read”HP & the Prisoner of Azkaban (illustrated version) by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| Related to water in the title: On A Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell
|25 points| Owned/TBR the longest (GoodReads): The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
|30 points| An emotion word in the title: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
|30 points| Each word in the title begins with the same letter: After Alice by Gregory Maguire
|35 points| A book featuring a character who shares your profession or similar one (i.e. does the same kind of thing as you do day to day): The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

I have 130 points out of 200.
*I changed this selection. It was The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling.

What did you read this month?

It feels weird to post today and not mention September 11th… I think it’s called Patriot Day now. I know exactly where I was 17 years ago when I got the news. Today my thoughts are with the loved ones of the innocent people who died at the hands of hatred and fear, as well as those who mourn the loss of a friend or family member that’s since fought the terror in our world. 

What I Read…

It’s book day! It’s also nearly halfway through August. WHAT THE HECK. I know we all say the months fly by (except January 2018, remember that one?) but daaang. This summer has been a quick one!

I just got home from another work trip- this time to Indianapolis. We end up there about twice a year and always come home dead tired. I’m not really complaining, though. I like what I do & who I do it with so these trips are fun in their own way 🙂

Enough chit-chat. On to the books.

Thanks for hosting this lovely Show Us Your Books link up, Jana & Steph! (Go visit them!)

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
★★★/5
In 1961 NASA sent the first American into space (just after Russia beat us to it). In 1969 we were the first to put men on the moon. The wives never walked on the moon but without them their husbands’ dreams would’ve been just that. 
I know it’s borderline blasphemous to say this, but I recommend watching the TV mini-series before reading this book. There are lots of wives (and astronauts) to keep track of and the show will help you put a face/personality with the wife; at least for the Mercury 7 wives. I’m not typically one for space history, but I really enjoyed this book. It doesn’t have very good reviews on GR (mainly because of the “sassy” writing style) but I didn’t have a problem with it. I enjoyed learning about the marriages and women who made it possible for these men to travel to space. Trust me, without the wives behind them, the men would’ve failed miserably and never seen the moon.
Should you read it? If your interest is now piqued, then yes. Watch the mini-series first, though!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
★★★★★/5
Caught between two worlds, Starr Carter has suddenly lost another best friend to neighborhood violence- only this time it’s the fault of the supposed “good guys.” By speaking out she’s sure to make an enemy out of nearly everyone… in both of her worlds. 
This book was incredible. I’m from a very small, white Midwestern town. Certain conversations made my skin prickle and my face blush. I would agree with everyone out there and recommend this book to all people. It’s heartbreaking and funny and infuriating and suspenseful and filled with SO MUCH. I’m so glad I read it and annoyed with myself that I hadn’t read it sooner. I really can’t think of much else to say- you just need to read it.
Should you read it? YES.

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
★★★★/5
After two years of suffering as the be-all, do-all assistant to professional football player and major asshole Aiden Graves, Vanessa has finally quit to peruse her own artistic dreams. But soon after her grand exit Aiden shows up begging her to come back- and this time, he promises, things will be different.
The more I thought about this book the more I convinced myself to push it into the 4 star range… It was cute and flirty, and parts of it have really stuck with me. The reason for the hesitant score is the repetitive nature. I liked Vanessa but her internal dialogue was usually about the same dilemma, over and over. I think the book could’ve been 100 pages less if that had been skimmed down or removed. Aiden sounded incredibly attractive. I loved that Vanessa was a an average, down-to-Earth woman. I think I’m starting to love the romance genre. So far they’ve been mostly the same formula, but you kind of know what you’re getting when it comes to this type of book. It’s a fluffy way to mix up my reading habits. I’m interested to picked up another Zapata (and R.S. Grey, too).
Should you read it? I know it’s one of Kristen‘s favorites and I really enjoyed it, so if romance is a genre you like then yes, you should.

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen
★★★/5
It’s funny how one dress can affect so many different people and events…
There was nothing wrong with this book, but it didn’t have much pizzazz. All the stories were woven together like the movie Valentine’s Day or New Years Eve. It was adorable and cutesy, but there wasn’t much development and everything was tied up in a nice, neat bow by the final page. I loved all the stories surrounding the sales people at Bloomingdale’s. I also loved the emotional importance of finding the dress for any occasion and how it makes a woman feel. It was sweet and accurate- I’m not one for fashion, but the right dress makes you feel incredible! Overall, just a cute little beach read.
Should you read it? Eh. Only if you’re in need of something super light.

Erin’s 9.0 Challenge started last month. Some people read all ten books in as many days (or less!). I am not those people. Here’s my progress:

|5 points| Freebie: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
|10 points| Starts with the letter N: Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen
|10 points| Has a mostly orange color: A Tyranny of Petticoats by various authors
|15 points| A book with an unlikable character: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| From 100 books PBS calls “The Great American Read”HP & the Prisoner of Azkaban (illustrated version) by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| Related to water in the title: On A Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell
|25 points| Owned/TBR the longest (GoodReads): The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
|30 points| An emotion word in the title: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
|30 points| Each word in the title begins with the same letter: After Alice by Gregory Maguire
|35 points| A book featuring a character who shares your profession or similar one (i.e. does the same kind of thing as you do day to day): The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

I have 110 points out of 200.

I’m currently working on the Prisoner of Azkaban. (I like to savor my HP reads.) I have On A Cold Dark Sea on hold at the library, After Alice is sitting on our coffee table, and I’m waiting for One Dark Throne to go on sale (Kindle version- fingers crossed!).

What did you read this month?

Life According to Steph

What I Read…

Apparently the reading bug bit me because I’ve been picking up and finishing books like crazy. And today I’m linking up with the fabulous Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books! to share them all with you!

(Happy 11th Birthday to my sweet little cousin Andria!)

I actually read these first two before the last SUYB link-up, but I was afraid I’d get burnt out in June and have nothing for today so I saved them. Plus, I had FIVE in May and that was crazy for me so I decided to hold off on more reviews. Who knew I’d end up with six this month.

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
★★★★/5
A collection of historically amusing and literature-rich comics.
Sometimes it’s nice to break up the novels and nonfictions with a few humorous and witty comics. I loved the ones about the suffragettes and anything with the Tudors. Occasionally she’ll draw short comics purely based off book covers- those are pretty funny. The Austen sisters comics had me laughing out loud, too. Beaton is a well-studied historian with a feminist flair and a snarky sense of humor. I think we’d get along nicely.
Should you read it? If you like history and classic literature then you’d probably find this collection extremely amusing.

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
★★★★/5
Ella’s life is the perfect rags-to-riches fairy tale. A prince, a castle, a kingdom with servants- what more could a girl want?
This was a fun, quick read about Cinders-Ella’s real story. A.k.a. the one where she’s a witty and brilliant girl who gets sucked into one enslavement after another. I liked the twist on this classic tale. I liked that Ella was smart and strong and resilient. I know I’d have enjoyed this book a lot more when I was younger, but it wasn’t a bad read as an adult.
Should you read it? Maybe. It’s a good empowerment fairy tale for young teens.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
★★★★★/5
A criminal twist on The Breakfast Club: Five students walk into detention, four walk out alive. Who done it? And why? What are these four students hiding?
I loved this book. The title and cover alone absolutely hooked me. I was ready to end up hating one or all the teenagers- none of them were perfect and they most definitely had secrets. Nothing was how it seemed, though, and McManus managed to weave in some diversity while shattering stereotypes and growing her characters into well-rounded and self-aware young adults. I knew my heart would break when someone was outed as a murderer. I had my guesses about what really happened in the detention classroom, but I didn’t guess everything and I was never 100% confident. I really enjoyed the suspense and twists and overall outcome. It took me no time at all to read this book and I was always itching to pick it back up!
Should you read it? Yep. I don’t usually read suspense, YA, or contemporary. And I loved it.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
★★★★★/5
A short speech about feminist from an award-winning author & Happy African feminist.
I was told by many folks in Blogworld that this was a must read. They were all completely and totally correct. It’s short and it will take you a half hour at most. It will make you questions why girls feel the need to be likable (and therefore diminish themselves and their “aggressive” behaviors in society & business). It will draw comparisons between masculinity and money for males. (I’d honestly never thoughts about that.) It will force you to notice the societal stigma surrounding unwed women (cats, spinster, failure) and unwed men (bachelor, hasn’t picked one yet). It’ll piss you off. A few weeks ago someone was talking with K and made a joke about me spending his money. Not OUR money- his money. K tried to counter and slip in there that I sign the checks, but it didn’t matter. WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS, friends.
Should you read it? You betcha.

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
★★★/5 
With dreams of opening her own restaurant in California, Eddy is on her way west to make it a reality. When tragedy leaves her stranded and weak in the desert she must rely on the kindness of strangers, including the handsome Rhine Fontaine, to help her get back on her feet.
Ho hum… trying my luck with another romance novel. This one was entertaining enough. I think I found it for free through the Book Bub emails & there were a handful of grammatical errors, but I can get past that. Eddy is the daughter of freed slaves and Rhine IS a freed slave passing as a white man (his father was the plantation owner). The divide and attitude between White Republicans and Black Republicans in the town of Virginia City was a big part of the story. I mostly enjoyed the flirting between Eddy and Rhine but the whole ending seemed kind of rushed. I also think a few things that the characters did might not have gone over so well in real life. But it’s a story so take it for what it’s worth.
Also, there are A LOT of romance novels entitled “Forbidden.” Lol
Should you read it? Probably not unless old west romances are your *thing*.

A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood
★★★★/5
A collection of fifteen short historical fiction stories featuring badass girls through America’s decades.
I don’t read a lot of short stories. I don’t dislike them, they just don’t usually cross my path. I liked the option of putting down the book and feeling complete after only reading 20 pages or so. As far as these stories go, I really really really loved them. They’ve all stuck with me in some way or another. Stories about bank robbers and protesters and pirates and more. Some girls lived to the end and some didn’t. Some girls pretended to be boys and some were incredibly feminine. It was a wonderful mix. One of my favorite authors, Marissa Meyer, contributed a story to the mix. The stories occurred between 1710 and 1968 and were all historical fiction, some even a bit fantasy. My favorite ones were Los DestinosPearlsGold in the Roots of the GrassThe Color of the SkyPulse of the Panthers, and The Whole World is Watching. I tried to whittle that list down. I couldn’t.
Should you read it? YES.

Erin’s 9.0 Book Challenge started this month, too.

|5 points| Freebie: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
|10 points| Starts with the letter N: Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen
|10 points| Has a mostly orange color: A Tyranny of Petticoats by various authors
|15 points| A book with an unlikable character: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| From 100 books PBS calls “The Great American Read”HP & the Prisoner of Azkaban (illustrated version) by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| Related to water in the title: On A Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell
|25 points| Owned/TBR the longest (GoodReads): The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
|30 points| An emotion word in the title: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
|30 points| Each word in the title begins with the same letter: After Alice by Gregory Maguire
|35 points| A book featuring a character who shares your profession or similar one (i.e. does the same kind of thing as you do day to day): The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

Kicking things off with 10 points.

What did you read this month? Do you tend to read more in the summer or winter? I thought I was a winter reader but these past two months have been great!

Thanks for hosting, Steph & Jana!

Link up with us, friends!

Life According to Steph

Book Challenge by Erin 9.0 Selections

Is it that time again, Audrey?? Yes. Yes, it is.

Erin released the prompts for her next book challenge and I’m so excited! This four month reading challenge goes from July 1 to Oct. 31. I have a few work trips in there so fingers crossed I get some travel-reading done.

Ok, I’ll talk rules and dets after I share my choices 🙂

Book Challenge by Erin 9.0

|5 points| Freebie (at least 200 pages): One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
|10 points| Starts with the letter N: Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen
|10 points| Has a mostly orange color: A Tyranny of Petticoats by various authors
|15 points| A book with an unlikable character: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| One of the 100 books PBS calls “The Great American Read”Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (illustrated version) by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| Something related to water in the title: On A Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell
|25 points| A book you’ve owned the longest (GoodReads list) but haven’t read yet: The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
|30 points| An emotion word in the title: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
|30 points| Each word in the title begins with the same letter: After Alice by Gregory Maguire
|35 points| A book featuring a character who shares your profession or similar one (i.e. does the same kind of thing as you do day to day): The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

Ok… on to my sales pitch 😉

Just kidding, it’s not a pitch. Erin hosts the most supportive and encouraging challenges, though. I use them as motivation to put down the remote or phone and pick up a book or Kindle. I read ONE book in my very first challenge- it’s not about how fast or many you read. It’s about enjoying the stories along the way. Absolutely ZERO pressure.

If you do want to partake, select your books and have them to Erin’s FB page before July (the earlier, the better- but she takes late joiners, too). Reading starts at 12:00am on July 1st and ends at 11:59pm on October 31st. One book can be a reread for you, but all categories must be different books (no doubling up to check off two categories) and all books must be 200+ pages. You can use audio and ebooks as long as they meet those requirements. Any questions? You can check out Erin’s FB page or ask me!

So tell me what you picked or would pick for each category. I won’t lie- I struggled a bit. Almost all of these are from my TBR list, though, so I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll FINALLY finish a challenge.