Tag Archives: book reviews

December Book Reviews

One of my personal goals for the year was to challenge myself to read 100 books. I KNOCKED IT OUT this last month, and reached my goal! It was harder than I thought to reach this goal, but felt pretty great accomplishing it. Without further ado, here is a review of each of the books I’ve read this past month!

“Girl Online: Going Solo” by Zoe Sugg was a clever and heartwarming wrap up to her Girl Online trilogy. It is a story of friendship, love, overcoming fears and obstacles and being true to yourself. I for one hope she comes out with more novels, even if they aren’t in this Girl Online universe. Her writing is light and airy yet deep. It’s hard to explain, but easy to read and enjoy.

“Bloom: Navigating Life and Style” by Estee Lalonde was a lovely novel. It follows Lalonde’s life, but also focuses on giving the reader the confidence to live the life perfect for them. The novel feels a lot like one of her YouTube videos, crafted and designed well, and full of funny moments, sad moments and honesty. Loved it!

“The Magnolia Story” by Chip Gaines was so incredibly interesting. I imagine it would be more interesting for fans of their show ‘Fixer Upper’ on HGTV (which I am) but I think it would also appeal to someone who has no clue who they are. (If such a person exists). There are so many tidbits of their history and how they got to where they are now. Two thumbs up!

“Life Without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People” by Camille DeAngelis was self-indulgent and honestly pretty boring at times. It is meant to help creative people manage their egos, but I found that it regurgitated many common thoughts and the organization was jumpy and disjointed. Not worth a read- just stick to the other countless creativity based books in the same vein, they are generally better reads and not so yawn-inducing.

“The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway is a classic. I’ve heard that one either loves or hates it. Not having read it before I was most curious to see which side of the spectrum I would land on. I loved it. So poetic and sad, but so so beautiful at the same time.

“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte is more than just a love story. It is the forming of a strong and independent female protagonist. One from the nineteenth century! She is forced to make her own way in life without the luxury of a rich male relative. She is a rebel. She sets out to have her own career in a male-dominated world, and refuses to let anyone rule her life. A must read.

“Margarita Wednesdays: Making a New Life by the Mexican Sea” was slow in the making, but that made the ending that much sweeter. I guess what they say about the journey being the adventure is true. Give this one a chance, it’s worth it. All the happy tears.

“My Story” by Elizabeth Smart was so emotional and raw. Again, a book I would not have easily gotten through if it were not for the joys of Audio books. Read by the author, and the woman who experienced this nightmare herself it is an incredible book to listen to. If you remember her story in the news like I did, give this book a listen, you’ll not regret it.

“The Giver” by Lois Lowry was another classic I’ve not ever read. It was pretty fantastic, although not exactly what I was expecting, having watched the 2014 movie of the same name. I have my own thoughts on what the ending means, what are yours?

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay” by J.K. Rowling was freaking incredible. I watched the movie before reading the screenplay, and let me just say- Rowling is a genius and this is the most amazing thing. It is exactly what the movie is. I can’t get over it. Can’t wait for the rest in the series of FIVE!!!

“The Peach Keeper” by Sarah Addison Allen was interesting, but definitely my least favorite by Sarah. I love her novels, they are so magical and come together in unexpected and lovely ways- except for this one. I found it fairly predictable and slightly rambling.

“Please Make This Look Nice: The Graphic Design Process” by Peter Ahlberg was an interesting read on multiple graphic artist’s thoughts on creativity, their profession and their work process, (if they have one). As an artist with a lower case ‘a’ myself, I found their interviews very interesting and in numerous locations similar to my experiences.

“On Living” by Kerry Egan was one of the best novels I’ve read all year. I actually listened to it on Audio book- read by the author it was inspiring, tear jerking, and hopeful. Egan is a hospice chaplain, and this novel is her compilation of stories from those who were dying or caring for the dying. I cannot recommend this book enough.

“Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days” by Jeanette Winterson was a big disappointment for all the fuss it has been creating. It is basically twelve ‘Christmas’ stories followed by a little personal story and recipe. Only a few of the stories I liked, and in general it was not very ‘Chrissmasy’ at all.

“Victoria” by Daisy Goodwin was a fantastic book, and I’m happy it was the one that got me to 100 this year! It is essentially a novel following Queen Victoria from a little before her coronation to just after she asks her husband to marry her. It is fiction, so of course Goodwin took liberties with the particulars, but the essentials seem (to me at least) match up with history. A page turner, this one!

That’s books 86 through 100!


Click here to see my goals for 2016

You can also see my goals for 20152014, 2013, 2012 and my bucket list!



November Book Reviews

One of my personal goals for the year was to challenge myself to read 100 books. Even at the end of a crazy October I was only two books short of reading eleven for the month- so we’ll be kicking it up a notch for November! Without further ado, here is a review of each of the books I’ve read this past month!

“Holding Up the Universe” by Jennifer Niven has a really special story. It addresses what it is really like to love someone for who they are. When Libby Strout was younger she was so big that her house had to be literaIlly torn apart for her to be removed for help. Now that she is older she has worked really hard to loose weight and is ready to go back to school. Jack Masselin cannot see faces, but he can see- really see- her. It’s a story of love, friendship, family and the universal need to be understood. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a great read- especially one on audio book.

“Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown is funny, actually pretty helpful in parts, and brutally honest in others. It’s probably best suited to individuals (mostly girls) just graduating high school through college, but it was interesting to read at 31 also.

“Mozart: A Life” by Peter Gay was chock full of information on Mozart’s life that I did not know before- not that I knew too much to begin with. It was interesting to listen to on audio book and concise. I only would wish for more information- and less guessing.

“Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1) by  Kendare Blake started out pretty rough. The plot is extremely dark. Three young women- triplets who grew up to a certain point together and then were separated into three different cities in their kingdom to prepare to fight one another to the death to become the next queen. I mean. Really. The reader gets a first hand account from all of them and can sympathize with them all. Just wait for the end- it makes me want to read the second novel in the trilogy when it comes out.

“Someday, Someday, Maybe” by Lauren Graham (Lorelai Gilmore!!) is actually really good! Was I surprised at that, coming from an actress? Yes, maybe a little. It’s about an actress trying to make it in the big city and all of the ordeals she goes through. Very interesting. Very entertaining. Two thumbs up!

“Fanny in France: With French Adventures and French Recipes” by Alice Waters had me in a French state of mind and I loved it! I was dreaming of shopping in markets, making French food from scratch, and beautiful sunshiny days. The story is great, the illustrations are gorgeous, and the recipes look like they would be a treat to test!

“My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business” by Dick Van Dyke was a glossy look at the fantastic actor’s bumpy yet still amazing life. His affair(s) and alcoholism are discussed frankly and without too much detail. Despite that – (and who can blame him), the peek into both his personal and professional life was very interesting and holds your attention.

“A Stolen Life” by Jaycee Dugard is terribly difficult to listen to on audio book because of the things that happened to Jaycee, the fact that she reads her book, and the degree to which she became dependent on her captors. I imagine it would be a tough read with a physical book in that it would be hard to keep going.

“Mid-Century Modern: Interiors, Furniture, Design Details” by Bradley Quinn is a fantastic overview of the design style/mentality that is Mid-Century Modern. There are lots of gorgeous pictures and it is an easy read.

“Frank Lloyd Wright” by Ada Louise Huxtable is a fantastic biography of the architect. It covers his ‘colorful’ and sometimes very tragic personal life, as well as his incredible career. A must read (or listen) in my case for anyone who is an architect or interested in the subject.

“Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly is the book that the movie coming out in January is based on. The trailer for the movie looks fantastic- and parts of this book are also. It is mainly very rich in background and not so into the everyday stories of these women. I can only guess since I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it looks to me like they focused on a very small section of the book and built their story around that.

“Paris for One and Other Stories” by Jojo Moyes was absolutly fantastic and such a great read. I loved the story- it was sweet and romantic and just a really nice listen after all of the insane happenings this November. There are short stories after the main one which in general I don’t think need to be included – just because of what they are- but I enjoyed all of them as well!

That’s books 73 through 85! Stay tuned at the end of November for a wrap up of all of the novels I read in the next month! 15 more in 1 month!!


Click here to see my goals for 2016

You can also see my goals for 20152014, 2013, 2012 and my bucket list!


October book Reviews

One of my personal goals for the year was to challenge myself to read 100 books. Even at the end of a crazy October I was only two books short of reading eleven for the month- so we’ll be kicking it up a notch for November! Without further ado, here is a review of each of the books I’ve read this past month!

a-lady-unrivaled‘A Lady Unrivaled (Ladies or the Manor #3) by Roseanna M. White was an excellent follow up novel to the first two in the series. I thought Lady Ell Myerston’s story would be my favorite of the series, but the spunk she displays int the first two novels is not at the same level in this novel. The story is pretty romantic though- Lord Cayton redeems his reputation and wins the heart of the lady. Oh- and the mystery/drama that surrounds the characters throughout the novels is wrapped up with a bow.


life-itself‘Life Itself’ by Robert Ebert was very long and informative. Interesting in parts… and in need of some serious editing in others. I listened to it on Audio book which is why I was able to soldier on through the thing. It’s a must read for anyone who is a fan of Ebert’s – but anyone who just love biographies like myself may want to steer clear.




the-girl-with-the-lower-back-tattoo‘The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo’ by Amy Schumer is a hilarious and completely honest look into Schumer’s life. She reads the Audio book herself which is so clutch. There’s really not much to say about this book other than read it. You’re welcome.


shockaholic‘Shockaholic’ by Carrie Fisher is narrated by Fisher on the Audio book and is hilarious… and a hot mess. That’s kind of her point I suppose. It wasn’t my favorite – but I imaine that die hard fans will love it.



before-the-fall ‘Before the Fall’ by Noah Hawley was a fantastic novel. It focuses on an airplane crash which two people survive and switches back and forth from present to the lives of those who perished just before the flight. It is a mystery, and a look at the human condition. I found myself loving the chapters in the present and being annoyed when I had to read about yet another perished passenger- but usually ended up enjoying those chapters anyway. A great read!
20000-days-and-counting‘20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course For Mastering Your Life Right Now’ by Robert D. Smith was a fantastic and quick read. It is chock full of advice and lessons that hit home and make you want to make the most of each day that you are given. A must read.





kate-the-future-queen‘Kate: The Future Queen’ by Katie Nicholl is one of the best biographies I have ever read. It was another Audio book I listened to in the car and my road trips were so looked forward to just so I could listen to this novel. It is an extremely thoughtful and thorough look at Kate’s life with so much more information than at least I ever knew about her. It’s a book I will be purchasing in the future. If you care at all about England’s future Queen, (and let’s be honest- we all do) then it is the book for you.



i-dare-you‘I Dare You’ by William H. Danforth is a novel I was awarded along with the ‘I Dare You’ Award in 4-H back in High School. It’s a very prestigious award, and I was surprised and very honored to receive it. I never read the book I was given for some reason though- until now. As slightly dated as it is, (being written in 1931) it is still an inspiring, fun and quick read. Even more so because I was awarded this honor among so many.



100-days-of-real-food‘100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake was an incredibly honest and interesting look at what we eat, and how we can eat better- much better. Leake’s family took a challenge to eat only ‘real’ (non highly processed foods) for 100 days and it changed their lives. It is inspirational to change your diet, and is full of yummy and nutritious looking recipes.


That’s books 64 through 73! Stay tuned at the end of November for a wrap up of all of the novels I read in the next month!


Click here to see my goals for 2016

You can also see my goals for 20152014, 2013, 2012 and my bucket list!


September book Reviews

One of my personal goals for the year was to challenge myself to read 100 books. Despite an absolutely insane September I am still on track to reach my goal! So without further ado, here is a review of each of the books I’ve read this past month!


‘The Reluctant Duchess’ by Roseanna M. White was an excellent follow up novel to the first in this series, ‘Ladies of the Manor’. Lady Rowena Kinnaird is not as bright and bold as our first heroine in the series, but she is tough and resourceful. It is a well written and entertaining novel. Vibrant characters, a beautiful landscape and plot line run throughout and it was a lovely read from start to finish.




‘How to Be a Blogger and Vlogger in 10 Easy Lessons” by Shane Birley is a resourceful if silly at times book that will teach you to do just what it promises. You can judge this book by its cover as the target audience is certainly for teenagers, and much of the advice is directed toward that age category. Still, I got a few good ideas for my blog.




‘The Cake Therapist’ by Judith Fertig is a fluffy read that tries to be serious. The characters are fairly one dimensional and the plot needs some fleshing out. The novel grows tangled plot lines that don’t all connect and that grow thin and snap at several points. I barely remember reading this book later in the month, and once I looked up the plot remember being bored through over half of the novel and only getting to the interesting bits near the end.


the-underground-railroad‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead was a fantastic listen on audio book. It was so poetic yet straightforward. The acts that white men committed made me literally sick to my stomach. We follow Cora’s story. She is a young lady coming into womanhood on a plantation in the South. She escapes and we hear her story and that of others around her. I imagine this would be a tough read if I had to actually read the words myself. Listening to it on audio book helped, although it was still hard to listen to.


god-and-the-afterlife ‘God and the Afterlife’ by Jeffrey Long was the most amazing book. It is written by a doctor who collected research on individual’s near death experiences, and what they saw while nearly or medically deceased. It is the largest ongoing study on this subject. I found this book fascinating and at many points incredibly awe inspiring and hopeful. It is specifically written looking at the experiences people had with God and many of them share similar traits. So amazing. Totally recommend this book.

the-school-of-essential-ingredients ‘The School of Essential Ingredients’ by Erica Bauermeister is a pretty spectacular novel. It follows the lives of those taking Lillian’s cooking class- as well as the proprietor herself. It reads with such a flow that one is inspired by simple words. As a foodie it inspires thoughts of cooking and eating as well. Each student has their own background they bring to the kitchen and work through it in their own way. At times it is difficult to keep track of them listening to the audio book, but otherwise a fantastic read.


‘Seriously… I’m Kidding’ by Ellen Degeneres was hilarious and that’s about it. It skips around like a jumping bean and doesn’t focus on much of anything, but in true Ellen fashion she’ll have you in stiches. Especially since I listened to it on audio book and she narrates it herself. I especially liked the bit about her short stint on American Idol. A definite must read for any fan of hers.




‘Art Before Breakfast’ by Danny Gregory is a fabulous read to inspire you to create more. Danny gives excercises to complete, short little lessons on basic sketching techniques and generally encourages the reader. I am involved with Sketchbook Skool, an online community of artists of all skill levels who take online klasses from Gregory and his co-teacher along with other artists they are able to get. A fantastic time- and a fantastic book!



‘and furthermore’ by Judi Dench is a really interesting novel. I listened to it on audio book and her friend narrates it beautifully. Prior to reading this book I had not known much about her, other than the fact that she is an amazing actress. This novel is the follow up to a prior novel which I have not read, but showed me so much about her life it was inspiring and truly interesting and entertaining. Dench has led an incredible life. I would definitely recommend her novel!



‘The Girl Who Chased the Moon’ by Sarah Addison Allen was a fun listen- but basically a more sophisticated ‘Twilight’ story. Allen’s novels are always touched with a bit of magic, and this one is no exception. As entertaining as it is, I think it would make a really fantastic movie. I love the aspect of the novel where our heroine’s wallpaper changes with her mood and circumstance. Set in the South, this novel is romantic, drenched in history and superstition, and a fun read from the word go.



‘A Very Special Year’ by Thomas Montasser is a pretty special book. This is a book about the love of books. It seems like each chapter starts a new aspect of Valarie’s life, and she grows to know herself more as she cares for the bookshop owned by her Aunt Charlotte who has disappeared. At the end of the novel the story comes full circle, but it is the journey that is actually quite interesting. It’s written like it is her life. We are learning as she is. It’s really hard to explain, one just needs to read it for themselves. 🙂


That’s books 54 through 64 of 100! Stay tuned at the end of October for a wrap up of all of the novels I read in the next month!


Click here to see my goals for 2016

You can also see my goals for 20152014, 2013, 2012 and my bucket list!


August Book Reviews

One of my personal goals for the year was to challenge myself to read 100 books. Easier said than done even though I love reading, I still have to work, have a life and pursue my other interests as well. I suppose that is why it is a challenge. I did a little spotty math, and if my calculations are correct I have to read eleven books each month for the rest of the year to meet my goal. I’m happy to say for the month of July and August that I have reached that goal! Below I’ve listed the books I’ve read this August with a short review, hope you enjoy!
four ways‘Four Ways to Click: Rewire Your Brain for Stronger, More Rewarding Relationships’ by Amy Banks, Leigh Ann Hirshman, and Daniel J. Siegel left a lot to be desired. Perhaps the audio book format I listened to it in was at fault, but it was dull and un-imaginative. Spend a few minutes brainstorming ways to form relationships and then how to keep them… and you will have this book in a nutshell. The science that is included is frankly boring, which is extremely unfortunate, and the methods of personalizing it for oneself are ridiculous.



Harry_Potter_and_the_Cursed_Child_Special_Rehearsal_Edition_Book_Cover‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne is a tough one for me. As a HUGE Harry Potter fan I have a hard time accepting this book as canon. If I look at it as fan fiction it is genius. The entire plot is out there with so many holes in the believably of it because of the canon that books 1-7 give us. I feel like the script – I cannot speak for the play not having seen it – lacks the heart and life that J.K. Rowling  gave the books. I am a little loathe to call it the ‘8th story’ but I’ll read it again after a few months to see how I feel. 🙂



pioneer woman‘The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels’ by Ree Drummond is such an entertaining listen on audio book- I’m still thinking about it weeks after having finished it. Basically it is Ree’s love story of how she met, fell in love with, and married her husband. We hear her thoughts, slightly more personal than one might think- but not too much so- from just before she met her ‘Marlbolo Man’ to a little after the birth of their first child. You have to listen to it on Audiobook, Ree narrates it herself and thus it is perfection.



tearling queen‘The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #2)’ by Erika Johansen is a fantastic follow up to the first book. I spent much of the beginning of the book a little annoyed at our heroine, while still respecting most of her decisions, but the ending is spot on and wraps up the rest of the novel nicely. I can’t say much without giving the entire plot/ending away so I’ll just say that I’m looking forward to reading the last book in this series due out in November!




crazy love‘Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God’ by Francis Chan is a fantastic and guilt-inspiring book. I would recommend it to a Christian at any stage in their walk because it is eye opening on several levels. It is probably the most convicting spiritual book I’ve ever read. It challenges you and asks you to examine what really matters to you. With that said, it does have some flaws – it is not always gospel centered at heart, and often focuses on the self and not the church. SO read it- but with a grain of salt and in prayer.



love-and-gelato-book-cover‘Love & Gelato’ by Jenna Evans Welsh.  I loved, loved, loved, loved this book. I loved the stuffing out of it. Yes it is a ‘teen’ novel. Yes, it is a typical ‘oh- I really love the boy right in front of me instead of the hunk’ novel. Yes, it is predictable. Despite these things it was fantastic. It reminded me of my trip to Italy in 2007 and made me want to go back SO BAD. It was so stinking cute, and while predictable… but sometimes not- it is interesting in a way that made you want to keep reading. I would actually purchase this novel. Seriously.



margheritas-notebook‘Margherita’s Notebook: A Novel of Temptation’ by Elisabetta Flumeri was not what I was expecting- but in a good way. Judging it by it’s cover (which sometimes works but not in this case) I thought it was a memoir, which I am ALL over. Nope. It was fiction- but not a let down at all because it was a fun read and all the talk of food made me want Italian food. In fact, I’m pretty sure the person who checked this book out from the library before me cooked Italian food while reading it because the pages smelled of basil and Tuscany.



Flyover lives‘Flyover Lives: A Memoir’ by Diane Johnson was such a let down for me. It held such promise with the background of the author coming from the Midwest (home for me) connections with Europe, history and a heavy background on the author’s ancestors. All of these things I am interested in, but it felt so rambling, scattered and worst of all- Johnson comes off as elitist with a heavy dose of ‘I’m the best!’ It started off so well. Bummer.


The Lost Heiress‘The Lost Heiress (Ladies of the Manor, #1)’ by Roseanna M. White was a very well written and interesting work of fiction. I’ve never read a novel by White before but the mix of history, romance and mystery was delightful to read. I was reminded strongly of Anastasia’s story in the plot, but this only added to the story. There are two more novels in this series and I can tell already this would make a fantastic mini-series or even tv show. It is the perfect thing to fill the hole missing now that Downtown Abbey has wrapped up. Somebody call Hollywood!


hillary-clinton-hard-choices‘Hard Choices’ by Hilary Rodham Clinton was very interesting to listen to, and nice to hear her side of how she got to certain places in her life, and the thinking behind decisions she made. It focuses on the time just after she lost the 2008 primary up until her daughter Chelsea has her first child and Clinton is still undecided weather or not to run for president in 2016. I appreciated listening to it on audio book, although I would have loved if Clinton had read the entire novel and not just the forward.


Lady Almina‘Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle’ by Fiona Carnarvon was incredibly interesting to read, and such a fantastic time capsule of Lady Almina’s life and her wonderful impact on Highclere Castle, otherwise known as Downton Abbey. We hear of her support of her husband, how she found her true love of nursing during WWII after opening up their home to convalescing and wounded Veterans, and how her husband- along with Howard Carter discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt. A thoroughly lovely read.



That’s books 43 through 53 of 100! Stay tuned at the end of September for a wrap up of all of the novels I read in the next month!


Click here to see my goals for 2016

You can also see my goals for 20152014, 2013, 2012 and my bucket list!