WWW

It's "What are you reading?" Wednesday!

I’ve seen a lot of bookish memes and list ideas here on the book-blogging circuit, and I wish I could do all of them! One of my favorites has been a trend of bloggers posting their current reads on Wednesdays.

This week I’ll be taking inspiration from Taking On a World of Words, and trying out their “WWW Wednesday!”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What I’m currently reading:

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

How am I only just reading this?? Historically, Holly Black and I haven’t connected as well as others, but this series has been so popular that I had to give it a try. So far so good! I’m enjoying it a lot, even though I’m only about a third of the way through it. I love Jude’s determination and anger and I even love how hard both she and Cardan are. It’s a very interesting character dynamic.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Okay, so I’m almost done with this and I THINK I know what’s going on. Maybe. Probably. Mostly. But this book has been a crazy weird ride with a lot of twists. As its written in different timelines and perspectives per chapter, I enjoyed some timelines more than others, but overall this has been really compelling. I have to know the end. I have to. I’m hoping to finish this tonight. Have any of you read this??

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

I just started this! I was lucky enough to get my hands on this one before its release date which was a big deal because everyone wants to read this one. I’ve been so excited. So far I am wildly interested in the characters and the world this takes place in and I love seeing some LGBT+ faces in Fantasy, all day every day. Can’t wait to review this one for you guys!

What I’ve recently finished:

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

This was great. Light, fun, heartwarming, sexy, emotional, and so much more. If you liked Tessa Bailey’s wildly popular first novel, Fix Her Up, you’ll love this one and you’ll recognize some of its characters. This book is full of so much vulnerability and honesty and I wish that I knew more people willing to brave those depths like these characters! This was a good one. Look for my review soon!

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

This one was an ildulgent reread and I don’t feel bad about it, haha. Mostly I’ve had this series on my mind because the next one is hopefully coming out in 2020! If you’re a Dresden Files fan, you know its been one hell of a wait. I’ve been thinking about trying to find a read-a-long for the series, or even hosting one myself! Would you be interested?? Let me know in the comments!

What I think I’ll read next:

Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin

“A dark, witty page-turner set around a group of wealthy mothers and the young musician who takes a job singing to their babies and finds herself pulled into their glamorous lives and dangerous secrets…” Okay, who doesn’t think that sounds like a lot of fun? Not me! I’m so in and so excited to find out. This one drops in May!

Followers by Megan Angelo

I won a copy of this from BookishFirst and I am SO EXCITED to read it. This promises to be a thrilling, engaging tale of ambition, drive, and technology and how the three can combine to make disastrous results. I’m hoping this has like Girls meets Black Mirror vibes? Very eager to jump into this. This one comes to shelves in January and I’ll be reviewing it this month!


Thanks for coming to hang out with me for a few minutes!

See you soon. x

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Reviews

Nevernight

“The brighter the light, the deeper the shadows.”

I don’t even know exactly what to say about this book because there is so much I want to say about it! Mostly I just want to shove it into people’s hands and say “READ THIS.” I’ve found that isn’t usually received well, though. Oh, well. That’s what this review is for!

Nevernight is not for the faint of heart. This epic fantasy world follows Mia Corvere, a young girl who has vowed to avenge the brutal death of her family. To do that, she finds her way to The Red Church, an establishment that has been training the most deadly and dedicated servants to carry out assassinations. Sounds light and fluffy, right? This book is like…if Divergent and Assassin’s Creed had a baby and then that baby wanted to go to Murder Hogwarts; it’s fantastic!

Nevernight follows Mia all the way through her search for revenge, through her training with her peers in the Church, through some insane and tough decisions, and then…to what comes next. (I’m not just gonna tell you, obviously.) I loved that Nevernight took the time, and length, to follow Mia all the way through what turned out to be a physical, moral, and philosophical journey. It’s a book that’s meandering in the best way: dipping in and out of moments that are shocking, delicious, and deeply complex. It’s a long book that doesn’t feel long at all, which I consider to be a crowning achievement.

I loved so much about this world that it’s hard to list it all, but the most compelling aspect of it all has to be the characters. While I personally wish Mia had been somewhat older, she is a powerhouse of a character, fierce, feminine, and focused. I love how Kristoff makes it a point of showing how different Mia is from other girls her age but also how she’s similar too. She felt whole and real and I delighted in just about everything she did, including murder! Tric, who I would call the “love interest” of this book except that he’s much more than that as a character, gained a special place in my heart too.

This fantasy world is dark, beautiful, hypnotic, and wholly, wonderfully original. Kristoff embraces horror and beauty in the same breath and shows us exactly how fine of a line it is between the two. Nevernight is blood and sex and death and does not flinch or shy away from the brutality, ugliness, and elegance of each of its moments. I was drawn in immediately to this world and it never let me go, I just want more. Especially after that killer ending.

I wouldn’t recommend this to everybody. Is it fantastic? Yes. Do I want to recommend it to everyone? Absolutely. But it’s just- not for everyone. Nevernight is not a gentle or soft book in any way, nor is it a happy, relaxing story for you to slip into, its…an epic, bloody battle. If you haven’t seen the brilliant marketing campaign they’re using for Nevernight, which features angry letters from (mostly) parents, it’s very telling of what kind of audience this book seeks. It will not apologize if you try it out and don’t like it. Nevernight, and Mia for that matter, does not care if you don’t like it, and— that’s what I loved most.

I knew that I would love and continue this series within the first chapter of this book and I am so excited to have fallen so deeply in love. Kristoff has done it again. If this sounds like a fun challenge to you, I highly recommend signing up for the ride. Nevernight will snatch you into its dark corners so fast and never let you go. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Check out the guest review I hosted for this book right here!


See you tomorrow! x

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Reviews

The Vanishing Stair

All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life. 


This review is heavily delayed, given that I read and enjoyed this book at the beginning of the year. The sequel, and final installment in the trilogy, is about to come out however…and I need to be ready. I also buddy-read this with Liz from This is Lit! (Check her podcast out here.)

To be honest, I was skeptical when I first read Truly Devious, the first novel in this mysterious trilogy, but I powered through and ultimately had a good time. The Vanishing Stair was a different story- I was sucked into this from the beginning. Vanishing Stair is a lot like its predecessor in many ways, but it also had a sense of urgency and action that I felt the first one lacked. This time around there was no slowing down.

My favorite thing about these books has always been their protagonist, Stevie. Her practical outlook on life, her struggles with her anxiety disorder, as well as her all-too-common variety of teen problems, have always come off as very relatable to me at their core. While the books might sometimes be over-the-top, or just over-the-top enough one could argue, Stevie is an anchor for the whole series. Her personality is whole and grounded and I enjoy watching her make decisions and figure out secrets at every turn.

I haven’t connected super deeply with any of the romantic stories in this series, but I honestly don’t think that the book needs it. The Vanishing Stair moves quickly and has detail and action a plenty, there is always something happening. I didn’t get bored, all the way up to the end.

I’m really looking forward to The Hand on the Wall, the finale to this trilogy. I can’t wait to find out who ’Truly Devious’ is and solve the mystery once and for all.

If you are someone who likes a good mystery without the gore or scares, these books are for you. They are eerie and mysterious, confusing and thought-provoking, even sometimes surprising, but its a gentler kind of murder mystery than I am used to. Personally, I think its a strength. This core has connected with so many readers and I whole-heartedly enjoyed my read so far. Check this one out for yourselves!


See you soon, friends! x

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ARC Reviews, Reviews

The Return

An edgy and haunting debut novel about a group of friends who reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance.

Julie is missing, and the missing don’t often return. But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she’ll come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her. 


The Return by Rachel Harrison was un-put-down-able.

I had so much fun reading this and stayed up way too late more than once to reach the end of the story. The Return was everything that I wanted in a modern horror, mystery novel: it’s murky, compelling, hypnotic, and slowly ratchets up the tension with a masterful hand. If you like horror, or even if you like thrillers or mysteries and want to try something new that isn’t too gory, this is the book for you. I highly recommend it.

This book is ultimately about friendship. As dark, mysterious, and grisly as it gets, what makes this book so great is the emphasis of the strength of female friendships through it all. If you’ve had a group of girlfriends for a long time, you know how far you would go for them. Or do you? Regardless, The Return makes you face this question over and over and over again as Elise, Julie, Molly, & Mae have to figure out the answer to this question themselves.

The friendships and characters alone were enough to keep me reading. The book shifts POVs occasionally, but I most loved and related to the primary POV character: Elise. She was broke and a little bit judgemental, sarcastic and a little crass sometimes, while giving in too much in others. She was, more than anything, just so relatable. All of her feelings, thoughts, and choices that she has to face in the story after her missing friend returns after so many years, they felt real and natural, like how I would probably react myself. Their friendships are real and deep, despite their struggles and so much time apart. Anyone who’s tried to reconnect with an old friend after too many years will find so many of their most painful moments so relatable. Mostly, I enjoyed that a group of women friends were center-stage for this story. Especially in the horror genre, I find that to be a beautiful and powerful thing in its own right.

More than anything, The Return was just engaging as hell. Even if I hadn’t known it was a thriller, each page felt like it turned itself as I couldn’t stop reading. Reading about them trying to reconnect after such an odd and all-consuming trauma was fascinating in its own right, before anything spooky even begins. After that– well, I couldn’t have put the book down then if I’d tried. Once the shadows start to recede in this mystery, this book breaks out the insane, dark and deadly in such fine form and it was a real treat to read.

Check out The Return when it releases on March 24th, 2020!

Thanks so much to Edelweiss+ for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


See you all on Tuesday! x

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Reviews

The Necromancer’s Prison

She wanted to find her place in the universe. She never imagined it might not be on Earth.

When Emily Murphy over slept the morning of her college entrance exam, she thought missing her test was the worst thing that could happen. She never expected she would wind up lost halfway across the galaxy, battling aliens with laser guns and mages hurling lightning.

Like most seventeen year olds, Emily’s main concern had been navigating the perils of high school, not surviving shootouts and sorcery. That changed when her school was attacked and a student was kidnapped. While everyone else smartly fled from danger, she recklessly ran toward it mounting an impossible rescue that would lead her on a journey unlike anything she could have imagined.

Dropped into a strange world teeming with merciless criminals and ruthless aristocrats, surrounded by violence and betrayal, Emily must untangle a web of intrigue and deceit to solve the mystery behind the abduction, save her classmate, and discover the destiny which awaits her.

It is either that, or die trying…


What an absolutely fun read.

I had no expectations when I picked this one up, just excitement and hope. A debut novel that mixed three of my favorite things: YA, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi? Yeah, I was down for the ride, and I was not disappointed.

The Necromancer’s Prison has a lot of strengths going for it. For one, the mix of genres feels fresh and unique. More and more in YA, and fantasy in general, I see magic and aliens/technology being mixed and connected in some way. It’s such a cool effect. Because of this, there are tropes and plot points in the book that feel fresh if only because of this interesting perspective. The mix of genres also mixes the reader’s expectations and kept me on my toes the entire time, wondering what would happen next.

Second, I felt a particular fondness for the main character, Emily. She is a smart, strong, determined, young woman and even when she didn’t know what to do, I never felt that she (or the writer) were taking the easy way out with any of her choices. Even the side characters were written so well; the banter and spectrum of relationships between them felt so natural and real. At their core, Whitesell’s characters are relatable as hell and you find yourself rooting for them easily throughout the book.

Lastly, I have to commend the author for how he kept the pace of the plot moving throughout the whole book. Sometimes in big concept books like this the middle does this thing where it- drags, I guess. The exposition gets too heavy and things slow down. Not in this book. The Necromancer’s Prison kept things fast, tight, and quick. The plot was thoughtful and clever and I found myself reading faster and faster as I got through the book. The writing is compelling and engaging and, most of all, I think that’s what made this book such a fun and entertaining read.

Overall, this was such a strong debut novel for Whitesell and I enjoyed it a lot. The Necromancer’s Prison is creative and explosive, action-packed and full of faceted characters. If you’re a Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan, definitely go check this one out. You won’t be disappointed.

A big thanks to Alec Whitesell for providing me with a review copy of his book in exchange for an honest review! I had so much fun reading it and I look forward to reading whatever you write next.


See you tomorrow, folks! x

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About Me, Recommendations

For My Sister On Her Birthday

Many of you might not know this, but I have a gorgeous, positive, amazing, strong, big-hearted, kick-ass, younger sister named Amanda.

We are so similar in so many ways, and then in others…we are just the opposite. For instance: I love scary movies year-round, and Amanda loves Hallmark movies year-round. But we do both love to read.

Amanda once asked me if I could send her a list of book recommendations. She said she was looking for something heartwarming, emotional, feel-good, fun, light, and/or romantic. Manda- I never got around to it, but here it is now.

All the books in this list are at least two of those things, sometimes all six. There are books from adult and young adult age groups and genres ranging from romance to non-fiction to fantasy (yep). These books have made me laugh and cry and/or want to hug everybody nearby and I’m so happy to share them with you. I hope one of them ends up being your next great read. I love you so much.

Happy Birthday, Little!


The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

What’s it about?

An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • When I asked my bookclub to recommend me the most “sweet, heartwarming, romantic” book they could think of, this book was recommended so many times.
  • I hate to admit it, but I hadn’t read it before this week! After it was so highly recommended and I wanted to include it for you, I went out and picked up a copy and I can safely say that this book was so. darn. sweet.
  • The Rosie Project is all about how we can find love no matter how odd we are. And we are! We’re all a little odd, which is part of why I enjoyed this so much.
  • This book is weird and funny, sweet and silly, but mostly just a fun and heartwarming story about the power of love.

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

What’s it about?

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)

Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)

Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)

Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her…

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • First of all, I have really enjoyed Tessa Bailey in the past. She’s an author I immediately thought of for this list for you. Her books are light, fun, sweet, and emotionally honest. I like the way she writes characters and I think you will too.
  • I also LOVED her sequel to this book called Love Her or Lose Her, which comes out in January. I definitely recommend that too.
  • Fixing up houses always makes me think of you & Matt! (And Chip & Joanna Gaines, but you guys first.)

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

What’s it about?

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.

Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.

Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?

With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet—a most unusual story of parental love.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • This book has so much heart. From the characters to the way the author talks about emotions and being human to the twists in the story, it was full of authenticity and humor and heart. It made me so emotional, in the best of ways.
  • The main character has to be so resourceful with these children and it’s impressive to watch her figure out solution after solution throughout the story. It made me think of you as a teacher, good at thinking on your feet with the weird problems kids always have orbiting them. I hope you get a kick out of that.
  • The main character is also funny and weird and not exactly normal but kind of in the best way. She reminded me of myself a little, but also of the way that you and Mom and I think. I can’t wait to hear if you agree.
  • This book was funnnnnyyyyyy. Did it also make me cry a little? Yeah. But only because I was happy and my heart felt full. So yeah, have tissues, but also expect to smile a lot.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

What’s it about?

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • I loved this book so much for a lot of reasons that were personal to me and that I feel might also be personally interesting to you. I would love to cozy up and compare notes on this particular romance with you.
  • The characters are earnest, sweet, good-hearted, and real. The way she writes people (in both of her books) makes me think a little of Jane the Virgin. (Which, for the rest of you, is a show that my sister and I loved.)
  • It was also, honestly just…so much fun to read, more than anything else. I enjoyed the hell out of it and so did a lot of other people, so I hope you will too.
  • This author is one of my ultimate new favorites, hands-down. Her books all connect through the same family and the love and care she puts into her characters is remarkable. I think you’d love all of her books. This one, the sequel (The Bride Test, which I loved) and her other upcoming sequel (The Heart Principle).

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

What’s it about?

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • This book tugged on every one of my heartstrings and made me feel so so many things. I read it in a day and actually happy-cried a little. It was a great read.
  • This book is all about families and our ties to each other and it is really a beautiful story about love. It’s heartwarming and deep and full of compassion.
  • Robin Benway is a great writer. This book is fun and easy to read, on top of being an emotional story. So many people I know recommended this book for this list!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

What’s it about?

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • This writer often makes me think of you. It’s hard to describe why though, because it’s not always the characters or the story, but instead it’s– the vibe and the tone that he creates in each of his books. He’s a deep thinker, doesn’t rush, and creates characters with such tenderness. I don’t know why but I just have a hunch you might like him.
  • This book is arguably his most popular, so I thought it’d be a good place to start.
  • Also, this book is wonderful and heartwarming and all about love. It sucks you in and watching the character grow and learn is beautiful. I hope you like it.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

What’s it about?

Here is a truth that can’t be escaped: for Mia “Rabbit” Hayes, life is coming to an end …

Mia-“Rabbit”-Hayes knows that life is hard for everyone. And she knows that she’s one of the lucky ones. She loves her life, ordinary as it is. And she loves the extraordinary people in it: her spirited daughter, Juliet; her colorful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye. Rabbit has big ideas, full of music and love and so much life. She has plans for the world. But the world, it turns out, has other plans for Rabbit: a devastating diagnosis.

Rabbit is feisty. And with every ounce of love and strength in her, she promises that she will overcome. She will fight fight fight. She will be with those who love her for as long as she can, and she will live as long as she can with music and love and so much life. And as her friends and family rally round to celebrate Rabbit’s last days, they look to her for strength, support, and her unyielding zest for life. Because she is Rabbit Hayes and she will live until she dies.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • I almost didn’t include this on your list because you said you didn’t want sad books. And this book will make you cry, for sure. BUT. I included it anyway because it isn’t really sad. It’s really a story of living our lives to their fullest and appreciating the love and beauty all around us, reminders that often make me think of you.
  • We’re emotional people and sometimes sobbing along to a beautiful story can be fun haha. So- have tissues, but I promise you’ll also enjoy yourself. Rabbit is such a fun companion.
  • This book will make you look at everyone you love with just a little more appreciation, compassion, and patience. It brings out the best in its readers.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

What’s it about?

Bod is an unusual boy who inhabits an unusual place-he’s the only living resident of a graveyard. Raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves, and other cemetery denizens, Bod has learned the antiquated customs of his guardians’ time as well as their timely ghostly teachings-like the ability to Fade. Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? And then there are things like ghouls that aren’t really one thing or the other.

This chilling tale is Neil Gaiman’s first full-length novel for middle-grade readers since the internationally bestselling and universally acclaimed Coraline. Like Coraline, this book is sure to enchant and surprise young readers as well as Neil Gaiman’s legion of adult fans.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • So this one you might have to trust me on. It’s a little bit out of your normal reading zones, but I had to sneak one fantasy novel onto this list and this is the one I chose with you in mind.
  • I’ve read this book more than once because I love it. It’s a beautiful story about a boy growing up and learning what it means to grow up and become an adult, what you lose and gain in the process. It’s about unconventional families and the magic of friendship and loved ones lost. It’s also a quick read, since it’s technically a Middle Grade novel.
  • Neil Gaiman is one of the best authors I have ever read or known when it comes to describing emotion and the unique experience of the human condition. He thinks and feels deeply, and that comes through in his writing. He writes beautifully.
  • It’s also a crazy, fun, wild story underneath it all!

How to Say Goodbye by Katy

What’s it about?

No one is ever happy to see Grace Salmon.

As a funeral arranger, she’s responsible for steering strangers through the hardest day of their lives. It’s not a task many would want – but, for Grace, giving people the chance to say a proper goodbye to the ones they love is the most important job in the world.

From the flowers in the church to the drinks served at the wake, Grace knows it’s the personal touches that count – and it’s amazing what you can find out about someone from their grieving relatives … or their Facebook page. But when she accidentally finds out too much about someone who’s died, Grace is finally forced to step out of the shadows… and start living.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • Okay, so there’s a couple of sad books on here. But really, I promise, this one is not as sad as it may appear from the cover and synopsis.
  • This book was funny and deep in equal proportions, and its a wonderful story about a young woman learning to love and live her life. It’s heartwarming and sweet and a little sad, but mostly looks for the beauty in our lives.

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

What’s it about?

All’s “faire” in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • This was the second most recommended book from my book club when I asked what to put on your list. Also- I liked this book too!
  • Well Met is kind of the pinnacle of “light, romantic, and heartwarming.” It has a relaxed and fun vibe and doesn’t take itself too seriously, while also delivering such a sweet love story.
  • When I read this, I remember thinking to myself “ha, this makes me think of a hallmark movie- Amanda would love this,” and here we are now!

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

What’s it about?

Milk and honey’ is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. ‘milk and honey’ takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • I don’t know if you read much poetry or if you’ve already read this one, but this is one of my favorite collections of poetry.
  • It’s short, while also being deep, emotional, profound, and so relatable. I underlined so many things when I read through this the first time.
  • This is such a good collection for women. It’s all about healing and living, our bodies and our minds, and it’s also about love. I think you’d find a lot of ideas in here that you’d relate to.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What’s it about?

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • Oh man, this story made my heart grow three sizes. It was beautiful. Sweet and tender, emotionally honest and nuanced, and full of characters that I loved and rooted for.
  • This book definitely made me cry, but in the best of ways. My heart felt so full while I read this and especially when I finished. The emotions in this book are so real and relatable.
  • Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors of the year and I highly recommend anything she’s ever written, but this one is my favorite romance of hers. She is a phenomenal writer.
  • I loved the ending and I think you will too.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

What’s it about?

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • It’s funny and sweet, and did I mention hilarious? I had a blast reading this one, couldn’t put it down, just lots of sweet and silly fun. When you asked me to make this list, this was one of the first books I thought of. (Though that was also because, at the time, I had just finished reading it. Still, it was a great read.)
  • Reading this makes you feel like it’s Summer outside, which given that you have a ton of snow up there right now– I figured you could use that.
  • Honestly, it was really, really hard to pick just one book from this author that I think you would like. Put Christina Lauren (two awesome BFFs who write together!) on your authors-to-read list, because they are right up your alley. Other books of theirs that I have read & loved: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, Autoboyography, and Twice in a Blue Moon.

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

What’s it about?

Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of PiLily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.

When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.

The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Remember the last book you told someone they had to read? Lily and the Octopus is the next one.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • So I read on a book list somewhere, years ago, that this was the book you should read if you’ve ever loved a dog. And you know how many dogs we’ve loved! Reading this brought up so many happy memories of our dogs growing up.
  • It made me cry and laugh and my heart swell. You may want to have a box of tissues, but when the book is over you’ll feel more full for having read it.
  • Its a great excuse to snuggle Bennie! (You’re welcome.)

Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani 

What’s it about?

In a book inspired by her popular TED talk, New York Times bestselling author Reshma Saujani empowers women and girls to embrace imperfection and bravery.

Imagine if you lived without the fear of not being good enough. If you didn’t care how your life looked on Instagram, or worry about what total strangers thought of you. Imagine if you could let go of the guilt, and stop beating yourself up for tiny mistakes. What if, in every decision you faced, you took the bolder path?

Too many of us feel crushed under the weight of our own expectations. We run ourselves ragged trying to please everyone, all the time. We lose sleep ruminating about whether we may have offended someone, pass up opportunities that take us out of our comfort zones, and avoid rejection at all costs.

There’s a reason we act this way, Reshma says. As girls, we were taught to play it safe. Well-meaning parents and teachers praised us for being quiet and polite, urged us to be careful so we didn’t get hurt, and steered us to activities at which we could shine.

The problem is that perfect girls grow up to be women who are afraid to fail. It’s time to stop letting our fears drown out our dreams and narrow our world, along with our chance at happiness.

By choosing bravery over perfection, we can find the power to claim our voice, to leave behind what makes us unhappy, and go for the things we genuinely, passionately want. Perfection may set us on a path that feels safe, but bravery leads us to the one we’re authentically meant to follow.

In Brave, Not Perfect, Reshma shares powerful insights and practices to help us override our perfect girl training and make bravery a lifelong habit. By being brave, not perfect, we can all become the authors of our biggest, boldest, and most joyful life.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • One of my friends who reads a lot of the same books you do recommended this to me. I read it, and I think you’d like it too. It’s right up your alley, and I know you like inspirational non-fiction.
  • It contains some good advice! And it’s aimed at the unique internal struggles of women, when it comes to perfection. I related to that and I think that you will too, given we grew up together.
  • You can get yourself a Bravery Prize after reading it! (Yay!)

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

What’s it about?

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

Why I’m recommending it to you:

  • Well, for one thing, this is one of my favorite books and my favorite memoirs. It is so well written, it’s smart and funny, and he speaks with so much intelligence and empathy about his life and bigger topics. I love the sense of voice in this book, it feels like meeting a new friend over coffee.
  • I think you’ll be fascinated by his life. That simply, he’s lived an interesting life very different from ours and I learned a lot and was so interested by everything he described.
  • I know you will love his mom and I can’t wait to talk to you about her. I love all of the characters in this book that he brings to life, but his mom is one hell of a woman. She is strong and independent and stubborn and has the strongest faith. You are really going to like her, especially at the end, which brings me to:
  • You’re going to really like the ending. And that’s all I’m gonna say on that.

I hope you have the happiest of all birthdays and the best year ahead, Amanda!!

It isn’t much, but I hope something in this list ends up bringing you tons of light and love. There’ll be a quiz at Christmas, too! 🙂

I love you so much.

Happy Birthday! xxxx

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