recent reads

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan--3.75 stars: Before this charming little jaunt into the Scottish Highlands even begins, Colgan writes an intro talking about all the best places to read her book. It's been a bit since I read it so I'm forgetting the specifics, but she talked about the pros and cons of reading in the bathtub and other good places to read, and it was delightfully hilarious and endeared me to her immediately. The book begins with a nearly out-of-work librarian in some city in England. She gets her jollies by recommending books to other people, and her house is almost falling apart under the weight of her books, so I like to think she's the UK version of me. Life events send her to Scotland, and she opens up a bookshop on wheels, toodling around little villages in the Highlands selling her books to people. IT IS SO CHARMING I COULD BARF. My one beef comes later in the book, when this delightful little diddy about books suddenly turns into a mild version of 50 Shades of Gray (Grey? I refuse to Google). It's not really graphic, but the extra steamy story line just takes a weird turn that does not fit the rest of the book, as if her editor said "Ok, this book about books is cute and all, but what will really put it over the top is some raunchy sex." No thanks.

For fans of: reading about reading, books about books, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (but definitely not as good), The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses--2 stars: Admittedly, in November and December I walked out of the library with arms full of chick lit. With the move from hades going on and sick everyone, I just wanted a happy mental escape from the chaos of reality. This book is 100% a Hallmark Christmas movie minus the Christmas. So yeah, just basically a cheesy Hallmark movie. And here's the thing...those come across a lot better in movie form than they do in book form. I don't know why that is, I just stomach it better in a movie sometimes than in a book. This book is basically about a Real (unmarried) Housewife of NYC who travels to a tiny town in Maine to complete an unfinished task for her dead grandmother. She's engaged to a rich, successful lawyer, but then meets the rugged carpenter who saves her from certain death and continues to follow her around even though she's completely insufferable. She spends her time in Maine trying to unearth her grandmother's secrets while slowly falling in love with small town life. I bet you'll NEVER guess how it ends.

For fans of: Hallmark Christmas movies, lots of descriptions of expensive outfits, eccentric New Englanders 

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson--4 stars: Woof. This book
was heavy and has given me a lot to think about. Stevenson is a lawyer who created a nonprofit to give free legal aid to the wrongfully convicted on death row, and he shares many stories in this book. It was a hard book to read; the stories were gut-wrenching. The book mainly focused on the affects of race in the criminal justice system in the deep south. Most if not all of the stories took place in the 80s when he was first practicing, and I hope and pray things are better today than they were then. It definitely opened my eyes even more to how broken our justice system is and the real life implications of racism. It's been a couple months since I've read this and I still can't put my finger on what exactly made me uneasy, but I think it had something to do with the fact that he seems to paint the picture that prisons are inhumane and unnecessary. That is DEFINITELY the case in some instances, but not always. He also seemed to claim racism for every single injustice, and while he had clear evidence to back much of that, it often seemed more complicated than that to me. This book prompted me to have a lot of discussions with other people and gave me a very different point of view than what I'm used to. Definitely worth reading, but a few things that I'm still processing.

For fans of: social justice, Dateline, The People v. OJ, legal dramas

Natural Disaster: I cover them. I am one. by Ginger Zee--5 stars: I am not one to usually enjoy celebrity memoirs, anything written by Mindy Kaling or Tina Fey aside. But for anyone new around here, I am OBSESSED with weather and meteorology. It was what I planned to study in college until I got into more difficult math classes in school and went NOPE. I cannot do this to myself. If I had more of a math/science brain, I'd like to think I would've been a meteorologist. I'm not a fan of morning shows, so I rarely catch Ginger Zee on TV, but I remember her appearing on the show Storm Chasers, and I fell in love with her on DWTS when she talked about being a breastfeeding mom. I was in the throes of that at the time and loved anyone who talked about it. ANYWAY. I've been on pins and needles waiting for this book to come out, and it did not disappoint. She talks about how she got started in her career and how her depression derailed her along the way. She literally checked herself into a mental health hospital days before starting her job at GMA. Respect. She compared things in her life to weather phenomenons, and I just ate that right up with a spoon. It won't be a 5 star read for everyone, and while Ginger and I are polar opposite people, I related to some of the struggles she had and I LOVED her passion for the weather. I may not have her degree or knowledge, but I feel the passion just the same. She also talks a lot about her husband, Ben Aaron, who I've followed on Instagram for years because he is HILARIOUS.

For fans of: THE WEATHER, behind the scenes of broadcast tv, depression success stories, celebrity memoirs, lots of name-dropping 

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen--4.5 stars:  This is the sequel to the Innkeeper of Ivy Hill and I have to say, I liked it so much more. It's a bit more plot-driven and there's much less talk of dead husbands which is always nice. Reading it transports you to a little English village in the early 1800s, where class and gender are still very big deals and determine your lot in life. The book follows three single women of various life circumstances trying to make a go of it on their own. There's very much an upstairs/downstairs element, and it reads like a PBS Masterpiece Theater show. It's slow, sweet, heartwarming, and wholesome. Also, this book focuses a lot on the formation of libraries and mentions Jane Austen as a current author, and obviously I lived for that. The ending is left open for another book which I am not sad about.

For fans of: Downton Abbey, a little bit of cheesiness, historical fiction, Pride and Prejudice

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson--1.75 stars: Let it be known that I am NOT a quitter of books. I'm too stubborn. I can't live with myself if I don't finish a book. I hold out hope that something will change, something will pull me in and I'll change my mind. But this book? I quit it. Left it. Broke up with it. We're done. Two thirds of the way through, I realized this is not how I want to live my life, stuck in a book that reads like a chemistry textbook and that's making me dread my reading time. Then I realized I'm the boss of me, and I slammed it shut (without the bookmark in it! such recklessness!) and breathed a sigh of relief. I read around 250 pages and could not tell you what happened. Probably because nothing did. I don't know who any of the characters are or how they related to each other. Something about a teacher with a minuscule inheritance she can't access and a doctor about to be sent to the front lines of WWI. It SHOULD have been charming and sweet, like Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, which I loved. It was so boring. So dry. So dull. I have no regrets. There are too many good books out there to waste time on books like this.

For fans of: boredom, insomnia cures

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family's Nazi Past by Jennifer Teege--4 stars: Holy cow, this book. After reading Schindler's List a few months ago, I found myself manic Googling the people mentioned, and I saw this book recommended. Jennifer Teege was adopted but grew up knowing her mom and grandmother a little. She knew nothing else of her family until she stumbled across a book in the library about her mother. Can you imagine that?  Just seeing a book about your mom in the library? She read it and discovered that she's the granddaughter of Amon Goeth--her mother is Amon's daughter. THE Amon Goeth--the serial killer Nazi/pseudo-friend of Oskar Schindler who brutally murdered people for absolutely no reason. Amon Goeth, who believed in the Aryan race and was a racist himself. He has a black granddaughter. A granddaughter who happened to live and study in Israel for years before finding out her family's true past. I mean, is that poetic justice or what? The whole thing just blew my mind. She writes about her adoption, finding out about her family and how she dealt with the guilt of what her grandfather had done, visiting Holocaust sites with that new knowledge, etc. It gave a very interesting perspective on how descendants of Nazis have been coping with the actions of their parents and grandparents. The reviews on this book seems to be mixed with people loving it or hating it, and I loved it. If you google her, it shows a picture of her next to a picture of Amon Goeth. The resemblance is chilling.

For fans of: the Holocaust (well, not fans OF the Holocau--nevermind. You know what I mean), adoption, Schindler's List, nonfiction crazier than any fiction could be

And those are the books I've had my nose in recently! Yesterday I picked up 7 Women by Eric Metaxas. I haven't read much, but I'm already loving it. He's a great nonficiton writer, right up there with Erik Larsen. Must be an Eric/k thing. I'm in a couple online book clubs, so I have three books I need to get busy on once the library relinquishes them to me. I set a lower reading goal for myself of 50 books this year, but I'm starting to think I may need to change it since we're not 3 weeks into the year and I'm already on my 5th book. Don't be too impressed--there's been a lot of snow and cold temperatures and not much else to do.

What are you reading?


  1. Ugh, I feel like so many authors and movie directors do that — like they’re absolutely convinced their story won’t sell unless they throw in some gratuitous sex. It’s so frustrating and I find it distracting and unnecessary 90% of the time.

    That book about the woman who found out her grandfather was Amon Goeth really intrigued me!! I might have to add a book to my list that isn’t currently on my reading challenge list ;)

    I just started We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I can’t say yet whether it’s good or not because I’m like five pages in, haha.

  2. Hmmm...I need to read Just Mercy because I think it would open me up, just a tad. I, like you, have some skepticism.

    The Natural Disaster one sounds interesting too!

    1. Read it! I need someone like you to bounce my thoughts off of.

  3. That's to bad that The Summer Before the War didn't work for you-I incidentally liked it better than Pettigrew's Last Stand, but each to their own, yes? (it's been a while since I've read either of those, though, so I can't remember the specific things I liked and disliked too much) I just added put that weather book on hold, and I'm pretty excited. I know very little about the weather, but there's a guy at our church who works as a weatherman and he feels compelled to teach us all about the weather everytime he sees us, so maybe now I'll be able to follow his trains of thought better ;)
    That book by Teege sounds awesome, and I just added it to my library list-I'll try to get to it soon! I'm currently working my way through the letters of Flannery O'Connor, and I'm about to start book 2 in the Mitford series, so I've got lots of reading material that I've been enjoying lately.

  4. I am kinda obsessed with weather & meteorology myself. My dad swore I'd be a weather person.
    I need to check out Ginger Zee's book - I think she's adorable anyways

  5. Did you see Joel Taylor from Storm Chasers passed away? I so need to get Ginger's book!

  6. I have been hearing glowing reviews about The Summer Before the War but the length deterred me thus far, now your review is deterring me even more. Thanks for saving me from a book I likely would find dull as well! I heard about the steamy, unnecessary scenes in Bookshop on the Corner so as much as I love books about books, I am skipping that one for that reason alone. I read 7 Women a few years ago and really liked it, more than 7 Men, which was also good.

    Here are my January reviews. My favorite book of the month was When Crickets Cry: https://elle-alice.blogspot.ca/2018/01/january-book-reviews.html


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