2019: Year In Review

This year I decided to switch up how I’d present reading year in review. I’ve read some amazing books this year and decided to split them up by categories. Enjoy!

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum – This was such a powerful, emotional, and heartbreaking read. I love that this book shed light on a culture that isn’t discussed much in fiction. I was glad to hear when this was one 2019 BOTY finalists.

Recursion by Blake Crouch – I’m typically not into sci-fi, but I really loved this one! This book really makes you think about the power of memories, time, and to what extent are we willing to break our moral compass. This book was also selected as a 2019 BOTY finalist which I most definitely voted for!

The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney – This deeply emotional and dark humorous contemporary novel brings up important topics that aren’t widely discussed, i.e. loneliness in senior citizens, living in a nursing home, the feeling of losing your freedom/independence once you live in a nursing home/dependent on caretakers, and grief. This was also our November #OCBooksandBrunch pick. We had a great insightful conversation about this.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim – I throughly enjoyed reading this legal thriller. I also had the chance to not only meet Angie Kim in person, but she also spoke to #OCBooksandBrunch when we selected her book as our October pick. I really liked this book because it explores how far people would go to push the bounds of familial relationships and friendships, and parenthood.

Before She Was Found by Heather Gundenkauf – This is a great mystery thriller which truly makes you think about how much community, friendship, betrayal can take on with children, parents, and their relationships with each other.

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher – I have a soft spot for domestic thrillers / suspense. What set this book apart from the others is the way the author was able to bring out the emotion and Tarryn Fisher says it perfectly: “…how women emotionally bankrupt themselves for whom they love.”
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren – This year I’ve discovered that I’m a huge fan of enemies turned lovers trope. This was my all-time favorite CLo book! It had all the things I wanted and more: lighthearted, hilarious, and full of romantic scenes. I also had a chance to meet Christina and Lauren back in July which was amazing!

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai – This Book doesn’t release till 2020, but I’m counting it towards the year I read it. This romance read has been my all-time from Alisha Rai so far! I’m grateful that I’ve been able to meet Alisha twice this year ☺️
I love that Alisha incorporates a diverse set of characters in her book with complex backgrounds. I also love the way she incorporates supporting characters from previous books she’s written. What I loved about Girl Gone Viral the most was the main characters and the building of their emotional intimacy is captured so well.

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover – Colleen Hoover really knows how to tear your heart out and give it back to you. This has become one of my favorite CoHo novels to date. I love the strained mother-daughter relationship Colleen captures in here. I can’t wait for Colleen to come to LA for her Regretting You book tour in January!
Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb – I had the chance of meeting the author earlier this year. However, when I met her, I haven’t read her book before. This is one my favorite nonfiction books this year because it really opened my eye to what therapy is all about and how it could truly help a person. Reading about the author’s experience through therapy and her going through sessions with her own patients helped bring perspective.

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou – This was my first read of 2019. Bad Blood initially piqued my interest as it was one of the top 5 books Bill Gates loved in 2018. I really liked how this nonfiction book read as a story so it kept my interest throughout. The author did an excellent job throughly researching. This book was one of the reasons I got into nonfiction this year.

A False Report : A True Story of Rape In America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong – I heard that show Netflix show, Unbelievable, is based off of this book. I wasn’t sure I would be able to watch the show so I opted to read the book instead. This nonfiction book was very fascinating and very eye opening for me. It really made me question about how rape cases are handled and false accusations.
Us Against You by Fredrik Backman – This is by far my ultimate favorite Backman novel. I can’t believe it took me till this year to discover him. I read all his books this year and he is such a talented writer. Us Against You is all-time favorite for several reasons. First, it’s the first time I ever LOVED a sequel of a book. I didn’t even think it was possible that the first and sequel could BOTH be 5 star reads. Second, I really loved how he took the story from Beartown into a more complex level and was able to eloquently bring up heavy issues.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney- I’m pleasantly surprised that this made it to my top 3 considering that I thought Normal People was mediocre. I’m glad I took a chance on this as the novel really stood out on resonating emotions. The complexities of emotional availability and self perception really stood out.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover – Not only was this my first CoHo book I read, but it was so beautifully written. This is not your typical romance novel. The emotions that Colleen captures in here is insane and makes you really think. I love the way she captures strength and kindness in this novel.

Have you read any of these books? What were your favorite reads in 2019?

Review: The Mother-In-Law

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth

Publication: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: 4/23/19

Disclaimer: I received a free finished copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: A twisty, compelling novel about one woman’s complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in murder…
From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. Diana was exquisitely polite, and properly friendly, but Lucy knew that she was not what Diana envisioned. But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice who helped female refugees assimilate to their new country. Diana was happily married to Tom, and lived in wedded bliss for decades. Lucy wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.
That was five years ago.
Now, Diana has been found dead, a suicide note near her body. Diana claims that she no longer wanted to live because of a battle with cancer.
But the autopsy finds no cancer.
The autopsy does find traces of poison and suffocation.
Who could possibly want Diana dead?
Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her adult children and their spouses?
With Lucy’s secrets getting deeper and her relationship with her mother-in-law growing more complex as the pages turn, this new novel from Sally Hepworth is sure to add to her growing legion of fans.

Review: The Mother-In-Law is the first book I read from Sally Hepworth. I was surprised to discover that this was more of a contemporary mystery than a thriller. The writing style reminded me of Liane Moriarty books filled with mystery and family drama. The story alternates between Lucy (daughter-in-law) and Diane (mother-in-law). Overall, it was a decent read. I really liked Diane’s character, however, I found that there wasn’t much about the male characters in this story. The storyline was intriguing, but I found the mystery to be lackluster. If you’re a fan of Liane Moriarty novels, then this may be right up your alley.

Rating: 3/5

How I Rate Books

Rating books is subjective. There isn’t really a right or wrong way, but there are some topics to consider when rating a book. Here are some of the questions I ask myself to help me determine my rating:

  • Did the plot match the summary or teaser?
  • Did this book resonate me?
  • What did I think of the characters?
  • What were my favorite parts of the novel?
  • What were my least favorite parts? Why?
  • Was the book overall entertaining?

As for the actual rating, I usually base my rating from the standard 1 to 5 stars. I don’t do half star reviews as you can’t leave half star reviews on GoodReads or Amazon. Personally, I don’t find them to be very helpful either.

Down below is my rating scale I go by.

Do you agree with how I rate books? How do you rate books your read? Share in the comments below!

Love or Hate Audiobooks?

Do you listen to audiobooks? I started listening to audiobooks a couple of years ago (back in 2017). At first, I had mixed feelings about them, but now, I like them! I still prefer reading physical books and ebooks over listening to audiobooks, but nowadays, I do like to look into audiobooks as an option too.

If you’re on the fence about listening to audiobooks, here are some pros and cons to help you decide if they’re right for you to try out!

Do you like audiobooks? Why or why not?

Review: The Arrangement

The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

Publication: Gallery / Scout Press

Publication Date: 7/30/19

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced digital copy of this book from Gallery / Scout Press in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favours are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking him: watching him at work, spying on his wife, even befriending his daughter, who is not much younger than she is. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

Review: This was the first book I’ve read from Robyn Harding. The whole concept of sugar daddy / sugar baby relationships in this book was truly fascinating to read. Robyn’s writing style intrigues you from page one and you can’t put it down. However, half way through, the book did feel a bit predictable to me. I liked how we were able to see the perspectives of Natalie (sugar baby) and Gabe (sugar daddy), but I was craving more of the first person alternative narrations in this novel. I was also curious to learn more of Celeste (Gabe’s wife) perspective more in the book instead. If you like domestic thrillers, then you should check this one out.

Rating: 3/5

Review: Lies

Lies by T.M. Logan

Publication: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: 1/17/17

Disclaimer: I received a free finished book from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS BASED ON LIES?

When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.

And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.

But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.

When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.

And that’s when Joe receives the first message…

Review: This is the first book I’ve read from T.M. Logan. Overall, this was a decent domestic thriller. The book had a great premise and the beginning pulled me in by being fast-paced. I didn’t see the twists coming and I liked the ending. However, I did feel that the middle part of the story did drag on for a bit. There were a few cheesy parts in the book I didn’t care for and there were times I didn’t like the main character, but that didn’t hinder me to continue reading as it was fast-paced. If you like domestic thrillers, then I’d recommend checking this one out.

Rating: 3/5

2018 Wrap Up & 2019 Goals

2018 was a wonderful reading year for me! Here are some positive things that happened:

  • Not only did I surpass my original goal of reading 50 books, but I surpassed my revised goal of reading over 100 books (I netted out to 105 books)
  • I met some really great people on bookstagram both online and in person
  • I received my first physical ARC book this year (It was An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen)

Some things I learned this past year:

  • It’s okay to DNF a book so I can read something else that’s better.
  • Be picky about the books I decide to read and put on my TBR list
  • It’s more of quality of books I’ve read versus the quantity

Going into 2019, here are my reading goals:

  • GoodReads Reading Goal: Putting the goal at zero so I focus on books I truly want to read and not stress about getting to a specific number (updated as 1/8/19)
  • Join a book club I will enjoy and to meet new friends
  • Buy less books for myself – buy books for book swaps and utilize the library more

How was your 2018 reading year? What are your goals for 2019?

2018 Best & Worst Books I’ve Read

2018 was filled with some true gems which will be part of my list of my favorite books ever and there were also a few that were real duds where I literally threw the book in the trash!

Here are my top 9 favorites in no particular order that you should add to your 2019 TBR list!

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

This book made me discover my love for domestic thrillers. The duplicity, affairs, toxic relationships are gripping! I definitely liked this one over The Wife Between Us. This thriller has a special place on my book cart along with in my heart.

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

This young adult contemporary novel is surprisingly deep. The author tackles serious topics of immigration, race, family, and scientific vs. artistic mindsets in such a beautiful way with an array of diverse characters.

Mr. And Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

If you’re looking for a feel good lighthearted novel that isn’t too romantic, look no further! This contemporary novel dives into beauty pageants, family, finding your identity, and the American Dream.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

This steamy heartfelt read will give you all the reads. I love that author uses Asian main characters and also brings awareness to Asperger’s in a sensitive way as well. This book also won GoodRead’s best romance novel of the year.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This was the first book I read from TJR that quickly made her one of my favorite authors. This historical fiction novel oozes fame, money, and sex set in the Hollywood glamour era. I loved the vulnerability of the characters and how unapologetic the female characters are while getting what they want.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

This dark compulsive thriller almost gave me nightmares! The book explores themes of mean girls, revenge, and summer camp. If you loved Riley Sanger’s Final Girls, then you’ll love this one even more!

No Exit by Taylor Adams

This insanely twisted thriller kept me on my toes the whole time. The storyline gripes you from page 1 and you don’t see any of the twists and turns coming. I have to admit that it makes me think twice about stopping at rest stop in the middle of nowhere now.

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Jones

This beautifully written novel explores love, survival, nature, heartbreak, and loneliness. I loved that this book combined elements of historical fiction and mystery. Some of the quotes will resonate with you long after you are finished reading.

Wonder by R.J. Palacios

The main message in this book is to be kind. I think every child and parent should be required to read this book. You never know what another person is going through and a little bit of kindness goes a long way. This is one of those books that will resonate with you and give you deeper insight into human connections.

Here are the top 9 worst books I read in 2018 in no particular order that I recommend skipping at all costs.

Look For Me by Lisa Gardner

This crime novel covers topics about family, troubled pasts, abuse, and survivors. I was disappointed in how dull this book was with the unnecessary repetition and lack of character depth considering it had an intriguing premise.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Unpopular opinion alert! I was in the minority who didn’t like this novel at all. I found the writing to be mediocre and the characters were all so unlikable that I found myself struggling to finish.

Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer

I was really looking forward to reading this one since it’s a contemporary novel that explores online dating in NYC. Though the premise was interesting, the writing style was pretty choppy filled with heavy mundane dialogue. I found myself skipping sections to see if it would get better and let me tell you that it does not!

When You Disappeared by John Marrs

This thriller ended up being a dud. At some point the twists ended up being predictable and the writing wasn’t as strong as the author had in other books. This novel explores toxic relationships, abandonment, and deception.

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

Fame, feminism, gossip, and sisterhood are some of the themes found in this novel. It barely qualifies as a thriller. The writing style was mediocre, however, all the characters ended up being so irritating which made it difficult to finish.

The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy

This has got to be one of the dumbest thrillers I have ever read. It shouldn’t even classify as a thriller as all the drama was so predictable and boring. All the characters lacked depth and the storyline ended up being so bland.

Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou

This novel is supposed to be a thriller, but ended up being melodramatic and boring. Guilt, toxic relationships, and resentment are some topics that can be found in this novel. The writing style was so boring and the twists ended up being predictable able a quarter of the way into the book.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Small town, lust, betrayal, and troubled pasts are some of the themes across this thriller. The characters were pretty dense and the storyline ended up being a drag. Skip at all costs.

The Spite Game by Anna Snoekstra

This is basically a terrible wanna be thriller version of mean girls. The plot sounded promising, but the story was terribly executed. The alternating between present day and various years flashbacks were confusing and sometimes made no sense at all.

20 Awesome Bookish Gift Items

With the holidays around the corner, it’s a great time to start thinking about what gifts to get to the special people in your life. Maybe you’ve decided that you want to get your awesome friend or loved one a book, that’s great!

Buying a book as a gift is always a thoughtful idea. But maybe you’re thinking that’s not enough or you don’t only want to give books. In that case, you may want to consider doing a book package or a book gift basket. These packages or baskets are so fun to put together for your recipient. Down below are a few items to add to your gift basket or package. Happy gifting!

  1. Bookmarks or magnetic page markers
  2. Book lights
  3. Book sleeves or kindle cover
  4. Candles
  5. Enamel pins
  6. Candy
  7. Snacks
  8. Mug
  9. Tea or coffee
  10. Notebook
  11. Tote
  12. Funko pop book character collectibles
  13. Book ends
  14. Socks
  15. Blanket
  16. Throw pillows
  17. Scarves
  18. Tanks or tees with bookish quotes
  19. Jewelry with bookish quotes
  20. Poster with bookish quotes

What do you love to add to book packages or book gift baskets? Share in the comments below!