Saturday, January 1, 2022

December 2021 Wrap Up

We made it to the end of another year. But everything feels so different with covid, right? I feel like time passes differently. 

It's been a busy month: end of Hanukkah, birthday, Christmas, and the New Year. I thought a bit about New Year's resolutions, but I may forgo that this year and stick with a few personal goals with no pressure. I will set a reading goal. I managed to get through 58 books this year, even with wedding planning and so on. My 2022 goal will be 60. I will adjust it (up or down) if I feel like I need to.

My other reading goal was to finish/continue some series that I haven't gotten around to yet. I managed to read Silvered Serpents and the Obelisk Gate to continue those series (maybe I can finish them this year). I read the Night of the Dragon and finished that series. I started reading Winter at the beginning of the year and haven't managed to finish it... not because it isn't good, I just haven't been feeling it. I wanted to read Vengeful, which is still high on my list once the new year starts. And I seriously need to finish the Three Dark Crowns series. I love the books, I think I am just scared to read the last one.

And I decided I am actually going to put together some DIY wedding posts. I have remained part of a couple wedding planning groups on Facebook and I actually have helpful information, apparently. I will get to work on those in the new year, too.

Another goal will be to get at least a couple new disease posts up. It has been a while and I do so love infectious diseases!

And December is the time for holiday reads! And I have a whole list of ideas for holiday reads and I read none of the ones on my list because I just wasn't feeling them, but that's alright. I'm a big mood reader and this year it has been extra hard to read books I am not in the mood for. So here are the books I read this month.

Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
Synopsis: (Copied from last year's post.) Georgie loves her husband, Neal. And she know he loves her. She's pretty sure, anyway. At the last minute, her job requires her to stay in LA to work and Neal takes their daughters to Nebraska for Christmas. Georgie all but moves back in with her mother, who thinks Neal left Georgie, though Georgie argues that this is not true. Desperate to connect with her husband, she keeps calling but can never get through. Until she tries her old yellow rotary phone in her childhood bedroom to call Neal's landline. And she gets through! To Neal in the past, during the Christmas week he had broken up with her and gone to Nebraska alone. Georgie hadn't talked to him the whole week, but he showed up to propose on Christmas morning. But now she is talking to past Neal. Is she supposed to change something? Fix something?

Thoughts: I still love this book. It is one of my very favorites. I usually cry all the way through the last few chapters and it makes me hopeful, I think. I just love it so very much. After I finished listening to it, I read/listened to some other books and then turned around and listened to this one again... So technically, I read it twice this year. I did that last year, too. I'm not sure what that says about me, but oh well.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Narrator: Tim Curry
Synopsis: I don't think I need to describe this classic! Christmas ghost story. A bit spooky and otherwise lovely.
Thoughts: One of my annual re-reads. I still love it and I still imagine the characters as Disney mice and ducks. And Tim Curry's narration is just awesome, I highly recommend it.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Title: If the Fates Allow
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
Synopsis: In the midst of the Covid pandemic, Reagan prepares to spend Christmas with her grandpa. She is great at social distancing and has made sure she couldn't expose her grandpa. Maybe if they can spend Christmas together with grandma's traditional Jello salad, things will feel normal again.
Thoughts: This is a short story that Rainbow Rowell released this year. I enjoyed it (even if the idea of Jello salad horrifies me). It was a nice, short holiday read.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Title: Christmas Every Day
Author: Beth Moran
Narrator: Helen Keeley
Synopsis: Jenny's life has just taken an extreme turn for the worst so she decides to start over. She has inherited her grandmother's cottage in a remote village. And she certainly has a project on her hands to make the cottage livable. Meanwhile, she tries to make friends with the locals, including her handsome and cranky neighbor.
Thoughts: This was actually better than I thought it would be. And while I cared little for the main romantic story line, I did like Jenny's friendship with Mack and I enjoyed the side characters.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

Title: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
Author: Jessica Townsend
Narrator: Gemma Whelan

Synopsis: Morrigan Crow is a cursed child, doomed to die by her twelfth birthday and blamed for any and all bad things that happen anywhere near her. Just before she is due to die, she is rescued by the eccentric Jupiter North who spirits her away to Nevermoor. Once she arrives, Jupiter enters her into a competition to enter the very prestigious Wonder Society. But she doesn't even know what her knack is. But she knows that if she doesn't get in, she is as good as dead.

Thoughts: This was a re-read. I was going to try to wait until 2022 to re-read these books, but I was impatient. And I still loved it. It was unique and fun and kept me interested the whole time.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars
Title: The Fire Rose
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Synopsis: A twist on the Beauty and the Beast story. Rosalind Hawkins is a recently orphaned and destitute scholar recruited by reclusive rail baron Jason Cameron to read and translate obscure books for him. But then Rose starts to wonder if all this magic the books talk about might actually be real.

Thoughts: I loved this book when I was younger and had not read it for nearly 10 years. It is still not the best and a bit contrived. Once I get into the story it bothers me less. But it is still kind of a fun take on the beauty and the beast tale.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Favorite read this month: Landline (always)
Least favorite read this month:  probably the Fire Rose

And now on to the new year. I hope it will only get better.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

November 2021 Wrap Up

November felt so fast. Probably because the first part of the month was finishing wedding things and going on our honeymoon. And then my October wrap up being sooo late. I will try to be better from now on.

But our honeymoon to Hawaii was lovely! We got to see a ton of things on Oahu. Saw a bunch of different beaches and areas of the island, the Dole plantation, Disney Aulani resort, sea turtles, and so much more. It was great and coming back to real life was hard.

We have now been married for a month! Had our first married Thanksgiving together, just the two of us. That was also very nice. He's my favorite person and being married to him has made me very happy. We finally ordered and got our thank you cards so we need to work on getting those out soon.

I managed to read a fair number of books. I have felt a bit bummed because I just haven't found a book to read (a physical book) that I LOVED in a long time. It has made me feel discouraged. I have soooo many books that I haven't read and some of them seem good, but nothing has really sparked my interest. I have picked up several and none have held my interest. I guess I am in a rut. I hope I will find something to get me out of it soon.

Here are the books I managed to finish this month. All audio books.

Title: The Frontier Magic trilogy
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi
Synopsis: This series follows Eff, the unlucky thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is a lucky seventh son of a seventh son. Lan is a natural magician and powerful. Eff is afraid of her magic hurting someone when she "goes bad." So Eff's magic develops a little bit differently, but it gives her a unique perspective that, turns out, is just as important as Lan's.
Thoughts: I have read these books many, many times. They are old favorites, old friends. And comfort books. I can't explain it, but I just adore this series.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars
Title: The Charm Offensive
Author: Alison Cochrun
Narrators: Vikas Adam, Graham Halstead, and Cassandra Campbell
Synopsis: (Copied from my review in September) Charlie is a socially awkward, anxiety-riddled wealthy and eligible bachelor who agrees to be on a dating reality show to help improve his public image. Dev is a huge romantic and it has been his dream to work with the reality dating show Ever After. Despite his lack-luster romantic life, he really believes in true love. And then he is promoted to being Charlie's handler for the show. And Dev has his work cut out for him getting Charlie to be the prince he is expected to be. After spending some (awkward) time together, Charlie realizes that his chemistry with Dev feels like so much more than his chemistry with the 20 women on the show. Dev agrees, but his career and heart are on the line. Can they find happily ever after?

Thoughts: I just had to re-read this again. But I loved this book just as much the second time. And if you want to know more, you can read my review from September.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars
Title: Boyfriend Material
Author: Alexis Hall
Narrator: Joe Jameson
Synopsis: (Copied from my review in March) Luc has to clean up his image fast or risk losing his job. He needs to be seen with a nice, normal, appropriate boyfriend. Enter Oliver, a serious, ethical barrister with a squeaky clean record. The two enter an agreement to be fake boyfriends as it will be mutually beneficial. And then real love happens.
Thoughts: I generally love the fake dating trope. This was yet another re-read. And I still loved it and thought it was sweet and funny!
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Title: The Love Hypothesis
Author: Ali Hazelwood
Narrator: Callie Dalton
Synopsis: PhD candidate Olive is in a weird position. She needs a boyfriend, or a fake boyfriend, ASAP in order to convince her best friend, Anh, to date Olive's ex (who Anh really likes). The only man at hand, however, is Dr. Adam Carlsen, notoriously unapproachable and harsh. Luckily for Olive, Adam needs to convince the administration that he isn't going to leave Stanford any time soon and having a girlfriend will help him look more settled. So they fake date. And of course, real feelings happen.

Thoughts: Fake dating trope, need I say more? That's sort of my thing I guess. As a scientist myself, I enjoyed the science parts. I really enjoyed the book overall. My only complaint was that it felt like the ending fell really flat for me but I can't put my finger on why exactly. But it was happy and fluffy and definitely worth the read!

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5 stars
Favorite book read this month: geez... since I mostly re-read favorites, nearly all of them?
Least favorite book read this month: none, really. I guess the Love Hypothesis only because it has a slightly lower rating, but not because it was bad and I didn't enjoy it.

I have read 50 books towards my goal of 50! Yay! Maybe I didn't need to lower my goal as badly as I thought. So now I am ahead of schedule for my 2021 reading goal and I will see how many books I get in and plan next year accordingly.

And now it is December! Hanukkah has already started, but I always enjoy Hanukkah and "lighting" my menorah (they are electric tea lights...). Then my birthday and Christmas. Kevin and I will be going out to visit his family in Connecticut for a few days over Christmas, which will also be nice. I love December. And I love holiday reads. Especially Landline (which I believe I read twice in a row last year...). Anyone else have exciting holiday reads planned?

Sunday, November 14, 2021

October 2021 Wrap Up

I really had the best of intentions. This post was nearly finished before I went out of town for our wedding. I also hoped to finish it while I was out of town (which was so silly in retrospect). Then I even took my laptop on our honeymoon thinking I could do it then. And I didn't even look at my computer the whole time we were gone. And getting back into town threw me right back into a crazy work week. So I'm sorry this is so very late.
My main life updates were all wedding related. I think I will put together a short blog post to share a few things about that if I can.

But here are the books I read in October. Spooky reads are the best reads. Also, I read almost NONE of the spooky reads I posted in my last blog post. Oh well. I just wasn't feeling them I guess. But despite my busy month with wedding things, I read many more books than I have the rest of the year. I caught up with my reading goal and then some.

Title: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
Author: Marie Benedict
Narrator: Nicola Barber
Synopsis: In early December, 1926, Agatha argued with her husband and disappeared the next day. Her car was found abandoned and there was a large manhunt in order to find her. But she did not appear until nearly two weeks later at a spa with, apparently, no recollection of what had happened. This story takes a spin on the true story. What if she did know what she was doing in order to expose her husband and maintain her reputation?
Thoughts: I found this book a bit ago and just thought it sounded interesting. And maybe a good way to get into spooky season: with a little mystery. I have not read anything by Agatha Christie, but I am hoping to do so. I also know next to nothing about her or about her life. But this was a great story and definitely makes you wonder about what really happened!

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5 stars
Title: Night Shift Witch
Author: Cate Lawley
Narrator: April Doty

Synopsis: Star was just hired onto the night shift of a funeral home. But right when she starts, a body comes in and the man had been murdered. And he was not actually human. Star has to use her witch-y powers and friends to help solve the mystery.

Thoughts: This popped up in a audiobook sale notification I get, and it sounded good so I went for it. It was much shorter than I was expecting which made it feel a bit rushed and almost anti-climatic. And some parts were repetitive. However, I generally enjoyed the story.

Rating: 2 1/2 to 3 stars out of 5 stars

Title: The World of Lore, Dreadful Places
Author: Aaron Mahnke
Narrator: Aaron Mahnke
Synopsis: Aaron Mahnke is the host of the podcast "Lore." In this book he explores a bunch of different haunted places. What happened to make them haunted and what have people experienced?
Thoughts: I have heard of the Lore podcast but it always sounded too scary for me. When I saw this book, I thought that maybe this would be OK. It was certainly interesting and enjoyable, but there were some parts that scared me. And some parts that horrified me and made me gasp and/or cover my mouth. Despite my not going for scary things, this one was alright.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 

Title: Pumpkin Heads
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Synopsis: Deja and Josiah are best friends and now high school seniors. Which means this is their last year working at the pumpkin patch together. It is their last night and they set out on an adventure. Deja wants to try all of the foods she never has been able to eat and she is determined that Josiah finally talk to his long-time crush.
Thoughts: This was a cute, fun story. And an easy read. I love Deja's focus on food! And I thought it was funny every time Deja changed Fudge girl's name.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Title: Not Your Average Hot Guy
Author: Gwenda Bond
Narrators: Graham Halstead and Karissa Vacker

Synopsis: Callie has been left in charge of her family's escape room for the weekend along with her brother and best friend. She is expecting a quiet weekend when cultists show up to use an escape room prop to summon a demon. Meanwhile, Luke is the heir to Hell and doesn't quite measure up. In an effort to raise his standing, he allows himself to be summoned in the place of a demon. 

Thoughts: This was the October selection for the Happy Endings Book Club from Nowhere Bookshop. Since I adored the last book, I decided to read this one, too. It was alright. I did not love it as much as the last book, but there were enjoyable parts. And I really liked how the escape rooms factored in because I love a good escape room!

Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars

Title: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Author: Josephine Leslie
Synopsis: Recently widowed, Mrs. Muir sets out to find an affordable house for herself and her family. And she finds the perfect house. Except it is haunted by the former owner, Captain Gregg. She makes a deal with him in order to live in the house, but they eventually become friends and companions through life's hardships.
Thoughts: I absolutely love this book. This is not the first time I have read it. And I'm sure I have reviewed it on my blog before. I love the movie, too, but the book is different and I love it at least as much.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Title: The Ex Hex
Author: Erin Sterling
Narrator: Caitlin Davies
Synopsis: After  young Rhys breaks 19-year-old Vivienne Jones' heart, Vivi and her cousin cast a drunken curse on him. But they are pretty sure it didn't actually work. Fast forward about a decade. Rhys has to return to Graves Glen to represent his family since his ancestor founded the town. But when everything seems to start going wrong, Vivi and Rhys have to figure out how to fix it.

Thoughts: This book was very hyped and I've sort of been in the mood for more romantic or romantic comedy stories. So I picked it up. I have to say, I did not love it. Some things felt too contrived for me mostly. It was fine as witchy romantic books go though, if that is what you are in for.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Narrator: August Ross
Synopsis: Cas inherited a special knife and a special profession from his father. He hunts and kills ghosts. Namely those ghosts who have legends about them and who have taken many lives themselves. His hunt leads him to a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood. But for the first time, Cas finds a ghost who is unlike many he has encountered. For one, she knows she is dead and he sees that she is not completely in control of her actions. She kills any person who enters her house. Except for Cas. So he sets out to figure out why.

Thoughts: I haven't quite finished Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns series, but I have enjoyed them so far, so I figured I would give this a try. It was interesting and occasionally very gruesome. I also had many suspicions, some of which were correct but many of which were not, so that made it intriguing. And I won't lie, there were a couple of parts that really got me. I was creeped out by a couple of things for sure. I think if you read it, you could probably guess the big ones. It was a good spooky read for the season though!

Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Narrator: Jim Dale
Synopsis: The Night Circus is a completely unique, magical experience, like no circus you've ever seen. For one, it is only open at night. Second, it moves all over the world and you never know where it will be next. Behind the scenes of this amazing place is an intense competition going on between two magicians: Marco and Celia.
Thoughts: I have read this book a few times now and I'm sure I have other reviews lurking around on this blog. But I just adore this book and I would love nothing more than to visit the night circus! While Celia and (especially) Marco's stories are of less interest to me, I love just about everything else about this book. And I always cry at the death of one (rather minor) character. I love the magic and the story and the fun of this book.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Favorite book read this month: Does the Ghost and Mrs. Muir count? Or The Night Circus?
Least favorite book read this month: Probably have to say Night Shift Witch or the Ex Hex

I have read 44 books this year towards my goal of 50. After being behind nearly all year, I managed to get about two books ahead of schedule in October despite wedding preparations.