Category: Book Lists

A Bookish Mother’s Day Gift Guide

I received several of these books from the publisher, either as hard copies or digital galleys. I’ve marked my partnerships with a second asterisk. I only recommend I love, and all opinions are always my own!

I love to give books as gifts, but that can be tricky. We all have different genre preferences, favorite authors, and reading mood changes. But if you have a mom who loves to read like I do, chances are you can make a pretty good guess as to what type of book they would enjoy. I’m featuring a few of my favorites that I’ve gifted to my mom, some that I’ve received, and some that I plan to gift to a few of my friends who are new moms. Let me know in the comments any book suggestions you have for Mother’s Day! Mom, if you’re reading here, just stop now!!

New Moms

These might seem odd recommendations for new moms, but I think moms worry enough about reading all the parenting books, and could really use more fun books to relieve some of that worry. With just a hint of motherhood (and friendship) thrown in, of course.

**Mama’s Belly by Kate Hosford, illustrated by Abigail Halpin (This is the sweetest book! It’s about a little girl and her mom, who is pregnant, and how the little girl is excited about meeting her new sibling, but also worried about there being enough love to go around. It’s perfect for brand new moms who are worried themselves about a new life, and for second-time moms–or third or fourth–who want to reassure their other little ones.)
*Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Read my review HERE. There are so many family dynamics, especially mother/daughter relationships, and it will give any mom a lot to think about!)
**The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews (This is her newest book, out May 8th, and it’s a fun book about scandal, secrets, and, most importantly, the friendship of a group of women, something that a lot of new moms might need reminding about.)

Historical Fiction

*The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (Read my review HERE.)
**Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict (Read my review HERE.)
**I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (This is Lawhon’s take on the Anastasia Romanov mystery and Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed to be her in the 1920s. I’m planning to get this and buddy read it with my mom!)


Do I need to explain why this is its own book category? Probably not! My mom loves to read about the history of wine and stories that take place in beautiful wine country. I gave her Cork Dork last year, and she may be getting another this year!

*Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste by Bianca Bosker (Bosker is a journalist who started researching wine to figure out why it’s such a big deal-I can definitely relate to that. I gave this to my mom last year and she and my dad both liked it!)
*The Wandering Vine: Wine, the Romans and Me by Nina Caplan (This one comes out May 8, so if you pre-order now it’ll definitely arrive in time for Mother’s Day. I just pre-ordered this and I know it’s one my mom is going to love. This also fits in the next category, as it’s Caplan’s story of traveling through various wine countries and learning about wine, drinking, and herself in the process.)
*Also, you know, a bottle of wine!!


*The Paris Effect by K.S.R. Burns (This sounds SO GOOD, and I’m planning to buy copies for my mom and myself! It’s about a woman who goes on a trip to Paris after the death of her best friend and how she learns to move past her problems and start living life.)
*Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant (Read my review HERE.)
*The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Maarten Troost (Ok. Hear me out on this one. This is a book that my mom actually gave to me, and it is straight up hilarious. Troost moved to the tiny island of Tarawa for two years. Enter what it feels like for a Westerner to move to a place where dengue fever runs rampant and there’s no electricity, running water, buildings, or airplanes. If your mom likes travel memoirs, this one is sure to be a hit.)
*Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr (This is the author’s account of the year he spent in Rome writing All the Light We Cannot See, which would also make a great gift if your mom hasn’t read it yet! I think the title says it all!)


*Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge (Read my review HERE. This is my favorite book this year so far . . .)
*The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Read my review HERE. This was one of my favorite books of 2017!)
*The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (My mom just got this book, and I’m waiting for her to start for me to start reading it! Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors, and this book has family drama, adventure, and the type of mystery that only Alaska can bring.)

Books to Buddy Read with Mom!

*A Quiet Life in the Country (A Lady Hardcastle Mystery) by T E Kinsey (This is the first book in the Lady Hardcastle series, and it’s just amazing. I bought this for my mom (Mom, hurry up and finish reading this!), and I’ve been listening to the audio, which I bought on Audible. The audio is so good, and I’m going to get the rest in the series this way. It’s one of the best cozy mysteries I’ve ever read.)
*Still Life, the Inspector Gamache series, by Louise Penny (Read my review HERE. This is the other cozy mystery series that I love. And it is amazing. If you and/or your mom haven’t started them, what are you waiting for??)
*Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (This is the first in a trilogy, and if you’re looking family drama and a more diverse shelf for your mom, this is the book to get! The movie opens in August, so it might be fun to read it together and then have a movie date!)


*Carrot Top Paper Shop-Carrot Top Paper Shop makes my favorite bookmarks and prints, and if you’re getting your mom multiple books, you might want to add in a few bookmarks.
*Book Light-This was suggested by Colleen at The Sagging Bookshelf, and it’s such a great idea!!
*Bookshelf Tees-So these are my new favorite shirts. Seriously, they’re so cute and soft!
*Just One More Chapter Mug-To fill with coffee! Or wine!
*My Pretty Peggy-Erin makes the cutest peg dolls, both literary and custom. Whenever she’s taking custom orders, it might be fun to have some made to look like you and your mom!
*Book of the Month Club-Might seem obvious, but I have to include it because they’ve had some really good selections the past couple of months.

We Heart Books-Valentine’s Day Love!

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.)


Love Monster
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!

Elementary/Middle Grade

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!

Middle Grade/YA

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!


The Unread Shelf Project 2018/Bucket List Book Club


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:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book One


2018 Reading Goals

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

  • Non-fiction
  • Historical fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Suspense
  • Memoir
  • Humor
  • Fantasy
  • Literary fiction
  • Personal development
  • Poetry/verse
  • Seasonal
  • Classic literature

Favorite Books of 2017!

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.