March 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

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Not only are Coloradoans under a stay-at-home order, but we’ve also had a few snow storms and cooler days that have made it next to impossible to get outside. Because of that, I’ve had a lot of reading time and I am really trying to get through some of my backlist books to clear off my unread shelves!

March By the Numbers:

  • Total Books Read: 16
  • Audiobooks: 3
  • Five Star Reads: 3
  • Unread Shelf:  10(2 DNFs)
  • Books Aquired: 31
  • By Women Authors: 13 (1 DNFs)
  • By Authors of Color: 3
  • By Queer Authors: 2
  • Nonfiction Reads: 7 (0 DNF)
  • Debuts: 6
  • Published in 2020: 6 (0 DNF)

Favorite Books of March: 

SO HARD!

My favorite book of the month was The Two Lives of Lydia Bird.

But here’s is also a list of the ones I think I’ll remember for awhile: From Scratch, Severance, Running With Sherman, You Are Not Alone, Anna K, The Witches Are Coming, and Untamed.

Here is a look at the TBR I set:

  • A Backlist Title – 📖 Lab Girl by: Hope Jahren
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I was so surprised by this one. I was worried about the science being over my head and too science-y, but Jahren has a talent for writing. I was engrossed throughout the book and so inspired by the end!
  • A BOTM Title – 📖 Severance by: Ling Ma
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ What a crazy time to just happen to pick this one up! It paralleled real life in an uncanny way (similar pandemic storylines), but I also think this added to my overall enjoyment of the story. It definetly helped it become a memorable read!
  • A Nonfiction Title – 📖 Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis by: J.D. Vance
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 Maybe if I had read this one closer to its release date, I would have rated this one higher. But the hype has simmered down, and I was also let down. As a memoir, I liked this well enough, but as a social commentary on “hillbilly-ness” it was quite disappointing.
  • At least 2 physical ARCs
    • 📖 *** A Good Neighborhood by: Therese Anne Fowler
      • ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 Sadly, I just didn’t love this one. I did enjoy the bones of the story, but there were two aspects of the book (no spoilers) that totally overshadowed everything else and ruined the book for me. It had so much potential but didn’t deliver.
    • 📖 *** Anna K by: Jenny Lee
      • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 When I saw comparisons to Gossip Girl, I was all in! I loved that show of elite teenagers seemingly running wild on the streets of New York, and this book had many of the same vibes. Drugs, sex, parties, privilege, and money galore, Lee takes the classic, Anna Karenina, and gives it a fun, modern YA twist among the NYC high school social scene.

I also read the following books:

  • 🎧 *** Running With Sherman: The Donkey With the Heart of a Hero by: Christopher McDougall
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ An absolute delight, especially on audiobook! McDougall writes nonficiton that is immersive and encompasses so much more than the title of the book. I will read everything McDougall writes!
  • 📱 *** You Are Not Alone by: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Unlike any other psychological thriller I’ve ever read, I couldn’t turn these pages fast enough. It was twisty and creepy and perfect.
  • 🎧 *** Make It Scream, Make It Burn by: Leslie Jamison
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, but the essays quickly pulled me in. Jamison narrates this herself and listening to her read her own deep thoughts really made the essays stand out that much more for me.
  • 📱 *** Under the Rainbow by: Celia Laskey
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ When a small town in Kansas is named the most homophobic town in the country, a small nonprofit moves in to educate the small minds of this town. It is insightful and I loved the way each chapter was a new perspective of one of the townspeople.
  • 🎧 *** The Witches Are Coming by: Lindy West
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ LOVED this…and the audiobook was amazing! Read it ASAP!
  • 📖 The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by: Josie Silver
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ While this one struck me as a romance at first sight, there is so much more. When Lydia’s fiancé dies, she begins to live in parallel universes – one where Freddie is dead and another where he is alive. The nuances presented surrounding grief and love and loss really struck a chord with me.
  • 📖 Untamed by: Glennon Doyle
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 Is Glennon Doyle capable of writing something bad?! I don’t think so, and Untamed is no exception. It’s amazing and reminds me that Doyle has a way of transforming pain into healing. She gives women permission to be themselves – to live in their one life fully and unapologetically. This book is like balm to the soul.
  • 📖 Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1) by: Leigh Bardugo
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 While the world building was great, it also made the story drag. To commit 175-200 pages of a 450 page story is quite the commitment for the payoff that you get at the end. I did love Alex, the conspiracy theories surrounding Yale University, and the overall story, but it was just too long and dense to receive high praise from me.
  • 📖 *** The Long Flight Home by: Alan Hlad
    • ⭐️⭐️💫 During WWII, the British Royal Forces used pigeons to help figure out Hitler’s moves. I had never heard of this and I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. It was incredibly interesting. However, that was the only facsinating thing about the book. Unfortunately, the writing felt amateurish and it really didn’t hold my attention.
  • 📖 The Simple Wild (Wild, #1) by: K.A. Tucker
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ It took a loooong time to get into this one and I was so close to DNFing it. The story did eventually pick up and I ended up enjoying it, though I’m not sure I care enough to continue the series (if you’ve read both, is the second better than the first?). I did love the romance between Jonah and Calla and I absolutely loved the Alaskan setting. Overall, it was a great, easy read considering what’s going on IRL right now.

I tried, but wasn’t feeling:

  • 📱 *** America Was Hard to Find by: Kathleen Alcott
    • It’s probably my state of mind, but I read the first few chapters and had no idea what I had read. I gave up pretty quickly.
  • 📖 Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1) by: Neal Schusterman
    • DNF – I know many people LOVE this series, and it has a super high rating on Goodreads, but I just couldn’t get into it. Could it be because a global pandemic is happening right now IRL? Possibly. Probably. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t working for me.
(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

Unread Shelf Update:

I’m still working on only accepting books I truly want to read. I also went through my shelves again and culled out books that I was convincing myself I wanted to read. I took 80 books to my library (I’m sure they were happy!) I felt like the biggest weight was lifted off my chest…so win/win!

I acquired 33 books in February (no purchases for me!! 🙌🏼)

I donated/unloaded 86 books!

My new total of books on my bookshelves is 389 books on my shelves!

(I started with 417, so I’ve gotten rid of 28 books so far. I wish it were more, but at least I’m heading in the right direction!)

This challenge is still proving to be so valuable to me and I’m excited to continue! Head over to Whitney’s blog for more information if you’d like to participate!

Q1: Top Reads & Recommendation Sources

The first quarter of 2020 has sure been interesting. While the global pandemic is scary and unsettling, it has given me quite an abundance of reading time.

Top Reads:

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Honorable Mentions:

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Top Recommendation Sources:

(I’m not sure I track these correctly, so these results may or may not be accurate. I am going to try to focus on this a little better over the next quarter and we’ll see how much these recommendation sources change, if at all.)

Read Alikes (Vol. 1): Evvie Drake Starts Over

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The Flatshare
by: Beth O’Leary

Screen Shot 2019-06-02 at 11.44.40 AMWhen I read the synopsis for this book, I felt like it was going to be way too cheesy for me. Basically, Tiffy goes through a bad break up with her boyfriend and needs a place to live immediately. She answers an ad in the paper that calls for a roommate to “share” the apartment – Leon will have the apartment during the day while Tiffy will have it every night. Tiffy and Leon begin writing each other notes, eventually becoming friends…and more!

I loved the characters in this book so much, and they made me fall in love with the story – cheesiness and all! But, having said that, there was depth to the story, and I was totally taken by surprise by that! If you’re looking for something light and easy, but absolutely entertaining, this book is for you!

Waiting for Tom Hanks by: Kerry Winfrey

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 1.46.54 PMWAITING FOR TOM HANKS is sweet and adorable and perfect in every way. I loved the references to 90s/2000s RomComs (Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and When Harry Met Sally). I also loved how Annie’s love for RomCom’s comes from her relationship with her mother, who has since passed away. She continues to watch them as a way to feel closer to her mama…that’s something I can totally relate to!

This is the perfect book for when you’re needed something lighter to dive into (like now!).

Red, White, & Royal Blue by: Casey McQuiston

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 1.48.42 PMThis one caught me completely by surprise! I loved everything about this book – it had the perfect balance between light-hearted romance, the exploration of deeper issues, and a well-developed plot and characters. Besides, who isn’t intrigued with the idea of a romance between America’s First Family and the British Royal Family?

The Unhoneymooners by: Christina Lauren

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 1.47.14 PMOlive and Ethan surmount innumerable hurdles to finally find themselves happily in love with each other. There were funny moments and hilarious one-liners throughout that kept me rolling through the pages. Overall, I appreciated Olive’s growth throughout the novel and her advocacy for being a curvy girl with no shame. We need more of this from authors! I liked the evolution of Olive and Ethan’s relationship, and I loved Olive’s supportive family and her relationship with her twin sister.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by: Gail Honeyman

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 1.46.29 PMThis wasn’t my favorite book out of the bunch but so many others have loved it that it’s worth mentioning.

Eleanor is a charming, witty, and endearing woman, but struggles in social situations. Therefore, she is somewhat of a recluse, sticking to a strict schedule. But when she meets Raymond, the sweetest friend one could hope for, everything changes.

I appreciated the wit and humor of Eleanor, I just wish the whole book would have had the depth that the last ⅓ had. Again, I seem to be in the minority with this opinion and think it makes a perfect addition to this roundup.

My Week in Books {3/25/20}

I’ve determined that March 2020 can go straight to you-know-where. This month has been scary and full of fear and anxiety and exhausting. I’m hoping, by some miracle, we turn a corner in April and life can resume in a more “normal” capacity.

I keep reminding myself of the sacrifices generations before us have had to make. They’ve gone off to war, stood in lines with food ration stamps, and had to flee their actual homes. I’m grateful that hasn’t been our reality…cooping up at home with the comforts of electricity, shelter, food, and water doesn’t seem so bad when it’s put in perspective.

And BOOKS! I have a plethora of those so this downtime has been a great time to grab some books off my shelves and READ!

Speaking of books…

🎧 If you’re looking for a way to support your favorite independent bookstore, Libro.fm is making it easy. They’re the only audiobook company that directly supports the indie bookstore of your choice. If you’re a member, consider downloading a few audiobooks to lend some support their way (you can even gift audiobooks and subscriptions!). If you’re not a member yet, follow this link and use my promo code (HAPPIEST) to get 3 audiobooks for the price of one ($14.99)!

Before moving onto some #minibookreviews, here are some links to my recent posts, in case you missed them:

What have you been reading (and loving) this week?

Last Week’s Reads:

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📖 The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by: Josie Silver 🐦

When Lydia Bird’s fiancé dies, she is thrown into a grief she’s never known and one that changes her life forever. As she deals with that grief, she also realizes she’s able to visit Freddie if she takes a sleeping pill. As she navigates the real world while also visiting Freddie in an alternate universe, Lydia transforms into a different, stronger person.

If you’ve been here long, you know I love a good book about grief. This book hit all the marks for me and I truly loved reading it. It did start off a bit slow, but as the story came together, I couldn’t put it down. I loved Lydia and Jonah Jones…and I thought the depiction of grief from the spouse and friend perspectives were realistic and sympathetic. The message of hope at the end was perfect.

Thanks to the recommendation from Sara (@fictionmatters), I picked this one up and I am so happy I did! 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Ballantine Books | Pub Date: March 3, 2020 | 369 Pages | Hardcover | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📖 Untamed by: Glennon Doyle 🧡

I LOVED this one – same as all of Doyle’s other books. I read it in a day! Doyle writes pain in a way that heals, and she gives women permission to embrace themselves. Her heart is gold and I appreciate her approach to life. I wish there were more people like her in the world…though her reach is far, so I hope people continue to be inspired by her!

My only complaints: some of the information felt repetitive – either regurgitated blog posts or stuff I’ve hear elsewhere before. I have to keep in mind that not everyone may have heard it, so maybe it’s best that it was included. But there were times where I felt like she ran out of new topics so she circled back to some old stuff. Also, there were a few places where Doyle kind of came off as pretentious and that really bugged me. I know she’s accomplished a lot and she’s worked hard to come into her own, but the persona that I equate her with is above tooting her own horn. And, hello! I preordered your book in November! I don’t need a reminder of what a badass you are!

Either way, those complaints don’t detract from the book. Glennon Doyle is amazing and I loved this book!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 |The Dial Press | Pub Date: March 10, 2020 | 352 Pages | Hardcover | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📖 Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1) by: Leigh Bardugo

Don’t let my ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 stars deter you – I really, really enjoyed this book, but I know it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s got every single trigger you can imagine and it’s a huge commitment. Not only is it 450 pages, but it’s intense and you have to pay attention. The characters, landmarks, and details are all necessary as you try to navigate two separate mysteries. It’s other-wordly too, so unfamiliar territory may turn some readers off.

Having said that, if you get through the first 100 pages, the story really takes off in an intriguing and complex way. Bardugo’s world building is incredible and the lure of secret societies among the elite students of Yale is fascinating. I was satisfied with the whole story, but I’m not sure I’m enamored enough to pick up the second book when it comes out.

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 | Flatiron Books | Pub Date: October 8, 2019 | 459 Pages | Hardcover | Purchase via Bookstore Link

Currently Reading:

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📖 *** The Long Flight Home by: Alan Hlad

This is my first box from Once Upon a Book Club and I am so excited! The Long Flight Home is WWII fiction – one of my favorite genres! – so I’m hoping the gifts along the way only make it that much more memorable!

From the Once Upon a Book Club website: “A unique reading experience! Each month you’ll receive a book (can be paperback or hardcover) to read, a 5″ x 7” quote print, along with 3-5 corresponding gifts to match a quote/item mentioned in the book. Each individually wrapped with a page number. Readers, open the gifts as they finish the corresponding page. The experience is unforgettable! It makes the reader feel as if the book is truly coming to life!

You’ll also find book club discussion questions in each monthly box. Each question will have a date next to it. Log onto our Instagram page on that date to discuss the book with other members of the Book Club community!”

If this sounds like a reading experience you’d like to try for yourself, use promo code HAPPIESTWHENREADING10 to get 10% off your box (regular price: $34.99)!

Kensington Publishing Corp. | Pub Date: June 25, 2019 | 304 Pages | Purchase via Bookstore Link

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

Libro.fm: #SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW

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These are unprecedented times.

We don’t know the impact COVID-19 is going to have on small businesses, so Libro.fm is doing their part to help ease the uncertainty many bookstores are facing right now.

Through the end of March, when you use promo code SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW, you will receive two audiobooks for the price of one. The ENTIRE purchase price ($14.99) goes to the independent bookstore of your choice (shout out to my closest indie: Tattered Cover Book Store!)

Listen, no pressure. Some people feel compelled to help where they can while others are also uncertain of their personal finances and prefer to save until we know more of the impact this is going to have on ourselves and the economy.

The offer is there if you’re looking for a place to support. 💛

Some personal favorite audiobooks:

#partner #Librofm

My Week in Books {3/18/20}

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Use promo code HAPPIEST at Libro.fm for 3-for-1 audiobooks ($14.99) and support the independent bookstore of your choice! (More details below.)

On the one hand, the #coronavirussocialdistancing 🦠😷 has given me a lot of reading time. And I feel a little bit grateful to be able to tackle so many books that are on my TBR list (though I really wish I were grabbing more of them off my #unreadshelf but I always seem to get distracted by the new, bright, and shiny books 🤷🏼‍♀️).

On the other hand, I do find it a little difficult to focus at times. It’s hard to find the balance between an enjoyable escape and being aware of what’s happening in the world around us.

I hope and pray that all of you are doing well. I hope your families are safe and healthy. And I hope that we get through this sooner than later – that it ends up being much milder than some of the most dire predictions. At this point, only time will tell, but there are so many ways to be socially responsible at this time. In the past five days, I have left my house once (my kids not at all) to stock up on some groceries. The kids are currently on Spring Break anyway, so right now they’re not missing school, though our school district has extended that break for another week (when they’ll reevaluate next steps).

🎧 What’s so great about this day and age is how much we’re all connected – through technology and social media. It’s easy to support #smallbusinesses and/or download books from your library through your smart devices. Another wonderful company that I wholeheartedly endorse is Libro.fm. They’re the only audiobook company that directly support the small independent bookstore of your choice. If you’re a member, consider downloading a few audiobooks to lend some support to your favorite bookstore (you can even gift audiobooks and subscriptions!). If you’re not a member yet, follow this link and use my promo code (HAPPIEST) to get 3 audiobooks for the price of one ($14.99)!

Before moving onto some #minibookreviews, here are some links to my recent posts, in case you missed them:

What have you been reading (and loving) this week?

Last Week’s Reads:

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📖 Lab Girl by: Hope Jahren 🌱

I’ve heard great things over the years about this book, and the hype was real! I really, really enjoyed this one – much more than I would have thought possible. I loved how Jahren weaved aspects of her profession into the narrative and made it relative to her real life.

I LOVED BILL! He was incredible and their friendship over their lives was so heartwarming to me. It felt like Jahren was very much alone throughout her life and I was so happy that she and Bill found each other and continued to remain close.

I was a little annoyed that we didn’t get to know more about her relationship with her parents. In the beginning, it seemed as if her and her father were close, but then we never heard another word about him. I understood that her mother and her didn’t have a great relationship and I think it was implied that her mother also suffered from mania/bipolar disorder that probably made connection difficult, but I still would have liked to see that loose end tied up a little better.

Though it did get science-heavy at times, I still found it quite fascinating and I’m eager to get my hands on her latest book, The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here. It was just release on March 3rd!

This is also the #HWRbooks selection for March (discussion post will go live on March 21); I hope you’ll join the conversation!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Knopf | Pub Date: March 1, 2016 | 290 Pages | Paperback | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📖 *** A Good Neighborhood by: Therese Anne Fowler 🍁

This would have no doubt been a 5-star read for me if not for the bizarre and uncomfortable obsession with one of the characters (No spoilers…but if you want to know, be sure to send me an email at happiestwhenreading@yahoo.com.)

Moving on…

This book had all the elements I love in a book – unlikeable characters, drama, young love, and gossip between neighbors that gave it that Desperate Housewives vibe. And even though the writing was totally engrossing and I couldn’t put it down or turn the pages fast enough, it still left me wanting something more when I finished the last page.

In a way, it felt like Fowler built up this huge confrontation and then totally rushed the ending. My favorite character ended up being the villian (unfairly so, imo) and it let me donw. I suppose it was to prove a point (that racism in America is unfair and damaging and the wrong people often pay the price for that viewpoint), but for me, it wasn’t executed well enough for me to buy it.

Even though I’m not over-the-moon about this book, I didn’t feel like it was a waste of my time. If anything, I’m wishy-washy because it made me uncomfortable (usually a good thing), it left me with a lot to evaluate (always a good thing), and I’m still processing my thoughts and may end up revising my rating (also a good thing). (I struggled between 3 ½- and 4-stars, ultimately settling on 4-stars with a few **reservations to note.)

This book would make an excellent book club selection for all the reasons listed above. I think there’s a lot to dissect here and if you’ve read, please comment so we can discuss! I’m dying to talk about it!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | St. Martin’s Press | Pub Date: March 10, 2020 | 279 Pages | ARC (Paperback) | Purchase via Bookstore Link

🎧 *** The Witches Are Coming by: Lindy West 🧙🏼‍♀️

I can honestly say that I loved every single essay in this collection of feminist power! This book is also a great example of not having to agree with every aspect of another person’s thoughts and beliefs but still being able to see value in their perspective. I think West is smart and well-articulated; I plan on returning to this collection many times. I listened to this on audio, and it was FANTASTIC!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 Hachette Books | Pub Date: November 5, 2019 | 260 Pages | ARC (Audiobook) | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📱 *** Under the Rainbow by: Celia Laskey 🌈

I love that an author was courageous enough to take on small-town homophobia!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Living in a town very, very similar to Burr City, I felt myself nodding my head up and down over and over again!

After Burr City, Kansas is determined to be the most homophobic town in the United States, a LGTBQ non-profit group of activists moves in to try to spread awareness and acceptance among its residence. As you can imagine, they’re not welcomed with open arms, but as they continue to hold listening sessions, luaus, and information sessions, a few people start to appreciate their message.

Each chapter is a new person’s perspective. At first, I was worried I couldn’t keep them all straight, but Laskey did a wonderful job of connecting all the pieces. I loved the depth she gave each character and the message that was conveyed through this style of storytelling. Her character development was exceptional, but also frustrating. Just went I felt a deep connection to the character, it felt like the chapter ended and we moved on to a new person. Some of the stories felt dropped because of this and kind left me deflated.

I personally found most of Laskey’s homophobic behavior to be fairly accurate, unfortunately. It continues to sadden me that people can be so close-minded about a person for such ridiculous reasons. Literally just the other night at dinner, I got into a “discussion” with a local man because he called the Govenor of Colorado (who is openly gay) a deragotary name and suggested that he’s incapable of being a good govenor because of his sexual orientation. I called him out on his disgusting behavior and he quickly paid his bill and left without another glance my way – good riddance. Sometimes I feel like the only fish in the sea – but then I remember that queer people have felt this way much longer, so I dig my heels in and continue to advocate as best as I can.

P.S. I LOVE the cover…Riverhead always kills it with their covers! 😍

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Riverhead | Pub Date: March 3, 2020 | 288 Pages | ARC (E-book) | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📖 *** Anna K by: Jenny Lee 💰

When I saw comparisons to Gossip Girl, I was all in! I loved that show of elite teenagers seemingly running wild on the streets of New York, and this book had many of the same vibes. Drugs, sex, parties, privilege, and money galore, Lee takes the classic, Anna Karenina, and gives it a fun, modern YA twist among the NYC high school social scene.

There were many times while reading that I wondered if the elite of NYC high school students truly acted this way (same as I used to do when watching Gossip Girl). I don’t know if it’s an accurate portrayal or not, but either way it’s fun to read (watch)!

I know nothing about Anna Karenina, and it’s not necessary to enjoy this book. I feel like this was a great read – not too heavy, not too light – to escape into during the beginnings of the #coronavirus pandemic.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Flatiron Books | Pub Date: March 3, 2020 | 448 Pages | ARC (Hardcover) | Purchase via Bookstore Link

Currently Reading:

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📖 The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by: Josie Silver 🐦

Just started and I’m already hooked.

Ballantine Books | Pub Date: March 3, 2020 | 369 Pages | Hardcover | Purchase via Bookstore Link 

DNF (aka: Not For Me and/or Skipping For Now):

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📖 Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1) by: Neal Shusterman ⚰️

Maybe it’s the timing, I don’t know, but I’m definitely not feeling this one. It feels very slow to start and the premise and writing just aren’t grabbing me. I think I’ll pass it on to my teenage son who says “everyone” is reading it at school.

DNF @ 24% | Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers | Pub Date: November 22, 2016 | 435 Pages | Paperback | Purchase via Bookstore Link

#DNFingWithoutApologyin2020

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

It’s St. Patty’s Day: Irish Authors To Read

St. Patrick’s Day has always been one of my favorite days of the year. I’m not sure why that is – I’m not Irish, I don’t like corn beef and cabbage…but I do love the leprechauns, rainbows, four-leaf clovers, and pots full of gold! 🍀🌈💰

As it turns out, some of my favorite books are written by Irish authors!

  1. John Boyne – I will read absolutely everything John Boyne writes! One of my all-time favorite books, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, is written by him and I highly recommend starting with it.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 9.49.57 AMThe Heart’s Invisible Furies (2017) – As mentioned above, this is one of my all time favorite books. It’s the beautiful story of Ceril Avery. His biological mother put him up for adoption when he was just three days old, so from the very beginning, Avery searches for a place where he feels like he belongs. Complicating things, he knows from a very young age that he is gay. This is literally against the law in post-WWII Ireland. What follows are the tragedies and triumphs of a life, and it has a special place in my bookreader’s heart.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 9.49.22 AMA Ladder to the Sky (2018) – While not as good as The Heart’s Invisible Furies, A Ladder to the Sky is still quite exceptional. In this book, we’re introduced to a villain everyone loves to hate: Maurice Swift. Handsome, charming, and hungry for success, Swift is the ultimate con-artist. He doesn’t care who he hurts in the process; his only concern is for himself. Boyne’s masterful writing skills are on full display in this book as he creates a narcissistic character that fully engages his audience!
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 9.51.11 AMThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006) – I read this book year’s ago and it wasn’t until a few months after finishing Heart’s that I realized it was the same author. Though very different than his later writing style, this is a story that’s hard to forget. Set in a WWII concentration camp, a young German boy (who is free) befriends a young Jewish boy (who is a prisoner in the camp). From there, their friendship blossoms and eventually concludes with a heart-breaking ending that I didn’t see coming.
  2. Emma Donoghue – Orginally from Dublin, Ireland, Donoghue entered my radar with the release of her award-winning book, Room.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 10.05.06 AMRoom (2010) – For seven years, Ma has been held captive in a room and her son, Jack, has never known a world other than this room. Despite Ma’s efforts to create a life for Jack, he begins asking questions when he turns five. Ma explains to him that there is a whole world beyond the four walls he’s familiar with. She devises a plan to escape that rests entirely on Jack’s help and bravery. I always love a book with mother/child bonds and this book particulary stands out because of Ma’s fierce love for her son. By creating a fairly decent early childhood for Jack (all things considered), her resilience under the circumstances is admirable. Room was adapted into a feature film in 2015 and went on to win four Academy Awards.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 10.15.24 AMThe Wonder (2016) – An English nurse, Lib Wright, is sent to Ireland in 1859 to observe what many are calling a miracle and a medical anomoly. Eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnoll has seemingly survived for months without eating any food. Is she doing it for religious reasons? Her parents certainly believe she can survive without food; therefore, sounding alarm bells to many outsiders. As journalists descend on the village and people flock there in hopes of experiencing Anna’s miraculous power for themselves, things start to spiral out of control. With a bit of psychological thriller vibes, this book definetly made for an interesting read!
  3. C.S. Lewis – Clive Staple Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898. When his mother died in 1908, he was sent to England for school. So maybe technically more British than Irish, I’m still including him as an Irish author!
    • The Chronicales of Narnia
      • Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.06.19 AMThe Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950) – I think most people have heard of Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books, especially The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (even though it’s the second book in the collection). Narnia is an eternally frozen world centered around the common trope of good vs evil. I foun this book to be magical and unforgettable (Aslan!). (I wasn’t as enraptured by the first book in the series, The Magician’s Nephew, and stopped reading the series after The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.)
  4. Sally Rooney – Born in Castlebar, Ireland, Rooney seems to be one of those devisive authors that you either love or hate.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 10.27.57 AMNormal People (2019) – This is actually Rooney’s sophomore novel, but the only book of hers I’ve read. I admit: I’m not the biggest fan of this book – though all the elements were there for a book I should love – something just didn’t work for me. Having said that, I think about it a lot (still after almost a year since reading it – and that really is a good sign of writing and plot development).
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.59.41 AMConversations With Friends (2017) – Rooney’s debut novel, but I haven’t read it and I’m not sure I will because of my opinion about Normal People.

 

 

  • And here are a few Irish authors/books I haven’t read yet, but am looking forward to doing so soon:Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 10.39.53 AM
  • Anne Griffin (2019) – When All Is Said
  • Emelie Pine (2019) – Notes to Self: Essays
  • Sinéad Gleeson (2019) – Constellations

Who are some of your favorite Irish authors and what books would you recommend by them?