Valentine’s Day is coming! Yes, I know it’s not a real holiday. Yes, I know it’s pretty much the worst holiday. But I don’t care, I like holiday-themed books, and we’ve got them for Valentine’s Day too! These are some of our favorites, and what we’re reading this week and next week in anticipation of the fun holiday. (That I completely use as an excuse to eat chocolate and cook heart-shaped pasta.)
This is probably our favorite out of the whole bunch, and one of our favorite picture book series. Love Monster, Love Monster and the Perfect Present, and Love Monster and the Last Chocolate is about an adorable monster who lives in Cutesville. He thinks he is anything but cute, since he doesn’t look like the other fluffy animals in Cutesville, but he finds a friend who thinks he’s perfect, and he realizes that he’s just fine the way he is. Each book focuses on an aspect of friendship and how friends love you for who you are. I LOVE them, and the illustrations are absolutely wonderful.
Slugs in Love
I bought this book because how often do you see a book about slugs in love?? It looked quirky and cute and it is! Marylou the slug loves Herbie the slug, but isn’t sure how to get him to notice her. Herbie feels the same way. Throughout the book, they write silly poems to each other all over a farm, and finally find each other in the end. It’s a very cute book, and not too mushy if you’re kids don’t like stuff like that. And it’s illustrated by Kevin O’Malley, one of my favorites!
A Valentine for Percy
If your child loves Thomas the train, he or she will love this sweet Valentine’s book! It’s very simple, about Percy searching Sodor for his Valentine, and all the engines celebrating together. There are also Thomas-themed Valentines included at the back of the book that kids can tear out and give to their friends, which might be worth it alone! Thomas Valentines can be hard to find!
The Kids of the Polk Street School-The Valentine Star
This was my book growing up, and I loved the Polk Street School series! I’ve been reading this one to my 9-year-old this week, and he really likes it. I would recommend the entire series, but if you want a Valentine-specific edition, you can jump right into this without having read the others. The students in Ms. Rooney’s class are making Valentines for each other and their teacher, but Emily Arrow is too focused on her new enemy, Sherri Dent, to focus on Valentine’s Day. It’s an easy read, and kids will identify with misunderstandings between friends and trying to impress the teacher. I’m so happy that this still holds up today!
Pee Wee Scouts: That Mushy Stuff
This was also my book growing up, and I have quite a few of the Pee Wee Scouts books too. The Pee Wee Scouts series is about a group of, you guessed it, Pee Wee Scouts, a group loosely based on Cub Scouts, with boys and girls. They earn badges together, play together, and get into trouble together. In this one, there is some mushy stuff, so be aware! A boy likes a girl, and while the Scouts are working on first aid merit badges, they also learn how to make Valentines with secret messages inside. The Scouts can’t decide which they like more, bandages or Valentines!
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble
We got this book in our OwlCrateJr box for February, and while my kids are not interested in it, I definitely am! I love the premise, and it takes place in Texas! Leonora Logrono’s family owns a bakery in Rose Hill and is getting ready for one of the biggest holidays of the year, Dia de los Muertos. (The Day of the Dead, and it is a big celebration all over Texas-our favorite local bakery sells tons of sugar skull cookies around that time!) Leonora really wants to help her family prepare this year, but she is still too young. When she sneaks off to the bakery late one night, she discovers that the women in her family are witches. And not just any witches, but brujas, witches of Mexican ancestry. Leonora realizes she has the same magic inside her, and has to decide whether or not to use it to help a friend. I am SO excited to read this book, and I love that it is going to introduce kids to a whole new culture. Being from Texas (I grew up in a border town as well), I grew up surrounded by this holiday, but a lot of people don’t understand it. It’s a celebration of the dead, and an important holiday to the Hispanic culture. If you have an older child who wants a book with a lot of magic, and a little bit of that Valentine’s love thrown in, give this one a try. As soon as I’ve read it I’ll post a review, but it looks fantastic!
If you’re like me, or even a fraction like me, chances are you have a few unread books in your house. Maybe you have a stack on your nightstand, a stack on the floor, or several shelves dedicated to those unread books. Me? I have all three of those. I started adding up my unread books, and they top 130. I don’t really have a problem with this, because I love books, but I DO want to read them, and obviously had every intention of reading them when I bought them. Luckily, Whitney at The Unread Shelf started The Unread Shelf Project 2018 on Instagram, so that we can all endeavor to read more of our unread books in 2018.
There are no hard and fast rules. This project is what you make of it. Some people are going on complete book buying bans. (I can’t do that. Louise Penny is the reason.) Some people are planning to read a certain number of their unread books per month. My personal goal is to read 1-3 books off of my unread books shelf/shelves/stacks/piles each month, leaving room for new books and books I feel like reading.
In addition, I’m starting the Bucket List Book Club so that we can read a few of these books together! (Some of these books I’ve had on my shelf for 20 years!) You can check out our dedicated Bucket List Book Club page HERE! I will keep a comprehensive list of books, posts, and additional reading on that page.
If you want to join in, go follow @theunreadshelf on Instagram and follow her hashtag as well, #theunreadshelfproject2018.
I’ll be posting about this soon, but the first two books for the Bucket List Book Club will be:
I don’t often set goals, but when I do, they’re unrealistic.
It’s the time of year when everyone likes to set goals for the new year, and I’m no different. I’ve loved reading about other people’s goals, both for their personal lives and for their reading lives, and it’s made me think even harder about what I want my own goals to be.
As other people do, I often set grand, unrealistic goals for the year, and then feel the huge weight of disappointment when I am unable to reach even a fraction of them. I want this year to be different. I do have some goals, and working towards things is important to me, but this year I want my goals to be relaxed. More general in nature. Eat more veggies, move more, stress less, read books. Today I want to talk about my reading goals for 2018.
I read a lot of books in 2017. 70, plus all of the books I read to my kids, including 4.5 Harry Potter books. I LOVE that I read that much, but I would really like to be a bit more deliberate in my reading choices in 2018. I am participating in the Unreadshelf Project on Instagram, which entails making an effort to read the books that have been languishing, unread, on my shelves for years. And instead of setting a number of books that I want to read (that just sounds stressful), I’m instead choosing 12 categories of books that I want to try and read this year. In an effort to be more intentional about my reading, but not forceful, I want to plan 2-4 books each month, and leave the rest to whatever I feel like reading. These planned books could include books from my unread shelf, from my categories (listed below), Advanced Reader Copies, or any other book that I want to make sure to read.
Some of these categories I will have no problem hitting. (I’m reading a suspense novel now, and there are several historical fiction books I’m planning to read.) Others are categories that I want to try more of (science fiction and poetry/verse), so I’m challenging myself to read at least 1 book in each of those categories. I also want to read more diverse books, and I have the Diverse Books Club to help with that. (You should join if you haven’t already!) And just to be clear, these are very basic reading categories that are personal goals for me. (Modern Mrs. Darcy has an awesome reading challenge with fun categories-I’m planning on incorporating mine into hers as well.)
Do you set yearly reading goals or challenges? I’m hoping to have a document to share by the end of next week in case you want to join in with me, or just create your own categories! Let me know what you hope to read in 2018 and how you want to challenge your reading life.
Reading Categories for 2018
- Historical fiction
- Science fiction
- Literary fiction
- Personal development
- Classic literature
I can’t believe it’s almost 2018!!! This year flew by, and while I’m extremely grateful that I had a pretty great year, sometimes I wish that time would slow down just a little. My kids appear to be growing faster with each blink of an eye, and with that comes the realization of the importance of slowing down. (I have some thoughts on that I’ll be posting about soon!) Slowing down in the new year to read more to myself, more to my kids, and to spend more time writing for myself are just a few things I’m reflecting on as 2017 comes to a close. But right now, you’re here for the books, so let’s get into it!
So far this year, I’ve read 68 books. This might sound like a lot, but I know other book bloggers who regularly read over 100 books a year. This was a lot for me . . . and I loved it! I’m working on a 2018 Reading Challenge (that we can all participate in), and one of my personal goals is to read even more in 2018. For now, here are my favorite books of 2017!
So I will preface this by saying that I listened to Echo on Audible and loved it so much that I bought the book and plan to re-read it, maybe in 2018. I cannot recommend this book, on paper or audio, enough. Yes, it is classified as a middle grade book, but if I hadn’t known that, I would have just thought it was a wonderful, emotional historical fiction book about three kids and their experiences during WWII. Each child’s story is centered on how music plays a role in her or her life, and how their love for music is hindered by the war. This book was beautiful, broke my heart, and still has me thinking about it almost 6 months later. Echo is a masterpiece, and one of my all-time favorite books.
Read my review of Echo HERE.
Celeste Ng is one of the best authors out there, and Little Fires Everywhere is as close to perfection as you can get in literary fiction. This is the story of a perfectly planned community, a perfect-on-the-outside family living there, and what happens when a single mom and her daughter move to town and things start to change. Whether those changes are for the better or the worse depends on who’s looking at the situation. I could not put this book down once I started it, and I’m still thinking about it. The writing is beautiful, but not in an overbearing way. Ng is a master with words, and this book entertains while also making you think, perhaps even question your own values and world views. This was my very favorite book of 2017, and is absolutely an all-time favorite.
Read my review of Little Fires Everywhere HERE.
A non-fiction book! On my favorites list! I never thought I would choose a non-fiction book as one of my yearly favorites, but Killers of the Flower Moon was so amazing it found its way in. David Grann writes about a subject that I was aware of but didn’t know a lot about: the Osage Indians and sinister plot to kill them off in order to get their oil money in the 1920s. This read like fiction, and I’m glad because it’s an important story that people should know more about. American Indians have a sad history in America, and this book highlights one of the reasons why. It is powerful, and I can’t wait to see what Martin Scorsese does with the movie version.
Read my review of Killers of the Flower Moon HERE.
Chances are you’ve at least heard of Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, and if you haven’t read it yet I beg you to. At the outset, it appears to be a novel about a grumpy old man who hates his neighbors. What it’s really about is how much that grumpy old man loved his wife, what their relationship meant to him, and how he survives without her. Ove has so much heart and so much compassion (underneath that prickly exterior) that you cannot help but love the main character, as well as the entire book. Backman is a true wordsmith, and I laughed and cried throughout the book, sometimes on the same page. A Man Called Ove is one of the most well-written books I’ve ever read.
Read my review of A Man Called Ove HERE.
Karen Dionne’s The Marsh King’s Daughter is one of those books I just could not put down (or stop listening to-I listened to part of it on audio) this year. Part fairy tale, part suspense novel, it weaves a tale of a woman who was born to an abducted teenager and is now making her life as normal as possible, complete with a new name. When her father escapes from prison, she has to find him before he finds her and her family. This is such a compelling story, and Dionne is a wonderful storyteller. I loved the mystery and suspense, and especially loved the way Helena, the main character, both loved and hated her parents for a variety of reasons. It felt very real, and I was invested in the characters.
Read my review of The Marsh King’s Daughter HERE.
When I chose Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo as my BOTM pick, I thought it might be a light, summer read. It is so much more than that, and Reid is one of my favorite authors now. Evelyn Hugo, an actress far past her career, decides to tell her life story, including the stories of each of her seven husbands, to a journalist for a tell-all book. No one is sure why Evelyn has decided to do this, but as the book goes on, her reasons become clear. Aside from writing itself being fantastic, the story is engaging, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. I have recommended Evelyn Hugo to so many people, and I will continue to do so until everyone has read it!
Read my review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo HERE.
WWII books are usually popular with fans of historical fiction. I am definitely in that category, and Jessica Shattuck’s The Women in the Castle was different than other WWII historical fiction novels that I’ve read. This is based on a real group of resistance fighters who tried and failed to assassinate Hitler, and whose spouses were left widowed during WWII. While the war itself is touched on, the story really delves into how these women survived after the war. The most interesting aspect is that they are all Germans, a group we are generally told not sympathize with, trying to survive regular life after the war. This book takes a look at what happens after a war, in the losing country, and how regular citizens keep going, no matter what. It is a wonderful story that had me looking for more to read about this group of people.
Read my review of The Women in the Castle HERE.
If you are a Louise Penny fan, I know that I’m preaching to the choir when I say that this is one of my favorite series ever. Inspector Gamache, the lead detective in Penny’s series that takes place in Canada, is one of the best detective characters out there, right up with Hercule Poirot. A Fatal Grace is the second book in the Gamache series, and it was even better than the first. A much-disliked woman is electrocuted on an ice rink during a curling match, and Gamache must figure out who had a motive (everyone) and who actually did it, and why. This is the ultimate cozy mystery series, and I hope to read the rest of Penny’s books in 2018. If you haven’t tried Penny yet (start with Still Life), get started and meet me in Three Pines!
Read my review of A Fatal Grace HERE.
This is my favorite dystopian novel of the year, and one that I will probably re-read in the future. It is reminiscent of other dystopian novels about women, but adds a new angle that I loved. In Gather the Daughters, there is a society of people living on an island. The men are in charge and the women are breeders only. Their only time of freedom is during the summer as children, when they are allowed to run wild until the age of puberty. One summer, one of the daughters sees something she shouldn’t, and it sets into a motion a plan to end the patriarchal civilization, maybe for good. This book was wonderful and disturbing, and I couldn’t stop reading it until I got to the end. I really cared about the characters, was worried for them, and I hope that Jennie Melamed has plans to write about what happens to them in the future.
Read my review of Gather the Daughters HERE.
I read The Other Einstein over the summer as part of the Big Library Read, and it was a surprise hit for me. Marie Benedict tells a fictional version of Albert Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Maric, and her relationship with him, as well as her contributions to science. This is a wonderful historical fiction novel, and in addition to making me want to find out more about Mileva, it caused me to really think about gender roles in science and in the past, and how much has changed. (And how much really hasn’t.) I loved this as a historical fiction book and as a story of a strong woman who made the best of impossible circumstances.
Read my review of The Other Einstein HERE.
I have to mention these two as well, because I couldn’t put them down! Neither are books I probably would have chosen would it not have been for the amazing bookstagram community and Book of the Month Club.
Cate Holohan’s Lies She Told is tense, fast-moving suspense novel about a writer whose real life starts to blend fiction and reality. There is a murder, a cheating husband, and you don’t find out the truth until the very end. It’s a great suspenseful read.
Read my review of Lies She Told HERE.
Riley Sager’s Final Girls is like a slasher film on paper. It’s about several girls who, separately, have been the final girls left after a mass murder. Someone is trying to pick off those remaining girls, and Quincy Carpenter, the main character, has to figure out who is after her. This is a page turner, and while I do not watch horror films, I couldn’t stop reading this.
Read my review of Final Girls HERE.
Fall is one of my favorite times of year for many reasons: pumpkin bread, cooler weather, re-watching Gilmore Girls, and reading certain books. Do you read seasonally? Fall is really the only time of year I like to read certain books, so I thought I would share a few with you that I’ve read that are perfect for Fall, and a few that I’m looking forward to reading. Whether you’re already wearing boots and sweaters, or you’re like me and cranking up the A/C and pretending it’s chilly outside, hopefully you can find a few here to add to your nightstand!
These books make me want to curl up under a blanket with some hot chocolate and not leave the couch for hours!
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
This one might seem obvious, but I love re-reading Harry Potter when the weather starts to change. At this point, it’s like visiting with an old friend, and feels like going back home. If you haven’t read Harry Potter yet . . . what are you waiting for??
Still Life by Louise Penny
I’m a new Louise Penny fan, and I absolutely loved Still Life. (My review is HERE.) Her Inspector Gamache series, set in the Canadian town of Three Pines, is the perfect cozy mystery for cooler days.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This is one of my favorite books, and Hannah is one of my favorite authors. This is the story of two sisters living in France during WWII, and the different paths they take to make it through the war. It is loosely based on a true story, and it’s a book I couldn’t put down until I had finished it.
Hook’s Tale: Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself by John Leonard Pielmeier
This was published in July, and I have been looking forward to reading it so much. This tells the story of Captain Hook, starting in his childhood, and how he went from a little boy living with his widowed mother to a famed, much-feared pirate. A fairy tale twisted around so the villain is the star? Yes, please!
It is October, and if there’s ever a time to read seriously creepy stories, it’s now!
Final Girls by Riley Sager
Y’all, I don’t watch slasher movies and I don’t generally read gruesome books, but I made an exception for Final Girls, and you should too! (My review HERE.) The books tells the story of a “final girl,” that is, a girl who was the only person left after a mass murder. I know. Stick with me. It’s a well-told story, and you will be awake and on your toes through the entire thing. Maybe read it with the lights on, though.
Lies She Told by Cate Holahan
I chose this from Book of the Month after Prose and Palate recommended it as a guest judge. Liza Cole is an author whose career isn’t doing so great. Her personal life is also struggling, so she disappears into the murder mystery she’s writing. Before long, her real life is mirroring her literary heroine’s life, and Liza has to figure out what’s really going on. I cannot WAIT to read this on a stormy October night.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Really, any Gillian Flynn will do for a creepy read, but Sharp Objects is, in my opinion, her creepiest. Camille Preaker is a reporter who returns to her hometown to investigate the murder of two young girls. She also just happens to have recently completed a stay at a psychiatric hospital. So of course, her own psychological issues and past become intertwined with her investigation. This one is seriously creepy, and it will keep you up at night!
A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott
This book was published posthumously, and I read it years ago. And I’m still thinking about it. Rosamond Vivian, feeling like a prisoner in her grandfather’s house, is whisked away one night (a stormy night, of course) by Philip Tempest to live a life of excitement and passion. However, it’s not all she expected it to be, and Rosamond is soon running away from Philip, who continues to stalk her. This is no Little Women, and I love it!
These books aren’t creepy, but they are mysterious. If you want a cozy, intriguing book without feeling like someone is watching you through the window, try one of these!
Alice Hoffman, queen of magical realism and mystery, has written a prequel to Practical Magic, which is why I’m recommending the two together. Read Practical Magic first (My review HERE.) and then pick up The Rules of Magic on October 10 to get even more of the Owens’ family history. These books have magic, mystery, and family drama, and they are my favorite books to suggest for the Fall.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This was a surprise favorite for me, and it is one of my absolute favorite books. It’s a dystopian novel set in the not-so-distant future. A flu pandemic hits, civilization ends, and a group of arts-loving people travel around what is left of the country performing music and Shakespeare in an effort to not the arts die out. But when they reach one small town, a prophet prone to violence shakes up their group, and they must escape or risk never making it out at all.
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
I received a copy of this book from Doubleday, and I’m looking forward to finally reading it this month! If you ever watched Scooby Doo, or enjoyed Hardy Boys mysteries as a kid, this is the book for you. It is not about the Scooby Doo characters, but it basically tells the story of what would happen when those characters grow up and must come back together to solve a mystery again. This is a fun book for adults who want to return to that world one more time!
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) by Philip Pullman
I may be on a book-buying ban, but I still pre-ordered this one. This is a prequel to Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass), and if you haven’t read that trilogy and you enjoy mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy all in one, go out and buy them now. Right now. The original trilogy is about a girl named Lyra as she travels through her universe and others trying to figure out . . . well, basically the meaning of life and why everything is the way it is. The Book of Dust is the first in another trilogy, and this one will focus on Lyra as a young child and how she came to be living at Jordan College (where we first see her in The Golden Compass). These books are so, so good, and there is plenty of mystery involved![Top]