Monday, December 31, 2018

One year ends, and there's another to look forward to!

The new year is upon us. I look ahead to 2019 with optimism for my personal and professional life. I feel the same for my reading goals.

My reading goal for 2018 was 50 books. As of December 30, I read 33 books. I started and stopped several books that I just wasn't into. Some books felt like a chore to read, and where is the fun in that.

Even though I read 33 books, I struggled to come up with a "best of list." Last year I felt like there were a lot more books that wowed me. But I still managed to come up with a short list.

Best Books of 2018
(Please note, not all of these books were published in 2018. I just happened to read them in 2018)

1. Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman: The literary equivalent of the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

2. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys: Fast-paced YA historical fiction.

3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling: Ok, I didn't review this on my blog because there's not much I can add to the conversation. But so far this is my favorite of the series.

4. The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter: A long but nuanced crime thriller.

5. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn: Each chapter is like a potato chip, you always one more.

Honorable Mention

It by Stephen King: This almost made my best of list. . .BUT that STUPID child sex scene at the end was so unnecessary.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton: Both of these books suffered from what I call first-book syndrome. As in both books had everything but the kitchen sink in them. Too much setup and some unnecessary romances. I have high hopes for the next books in both series.

Worst of the year: For me that was Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. This has a very pretty cover, but a rather boring interior!

Looking ahead!

I still want to try for 50 books in 2019. Even though I might not get there, I just like the number 50!

Monday, December 24, 2018

My take on: Season of Wonder

Festive times calls for a festive read. Just look at that cover, it just screams Happy Holidays! I saved Season of Wonder by RaeAnne Thayne specifically for this time of the year. I relished the opportunity to read something positive and uplifting.

Single mom Dani is starting a new life for herself and her daughters, Silver and Mia, in Haven Point. Small-town Idaho, where everybody knows everybody, is very different from the hustle and bustle of New York City. But it's just the change of pace her family needs. Dani is trying to escape the shadow of her now deceased ex-husband's misdeeds. Her ex was a thief and a murderer, and in Dani's mind she can never run far enough from his crimes. Dani's not a criminal and neither are her children, but she's afraid people will think badly of her family if they know the truth. The fewer people who know the truth, the better. Only Dani's boss, a retiring veterinarian, knows about her past and she'd like to keep it that way. Dani has a chance to take over the veterinary practice and she's not going to let anything derail that, including handsome deputy sheriff Ruben -- who just happens to be her boss's son.

Wanting and seeking happiness beyond her work and life with her daughters, just isn't in the cards for Dani. Despite a mutual attraction to Ruben, Dani runs from him at every chance. She's afraid to trust. She's afraid to love. She doesn't believe she deserves any of it. As a former foster kid, Dani has trouble building lasting relationships. But fate often has a way of intervening. Ruben quickly becomes a constant in her life, saving teenage Silver from following in her father's footsteps and forging an instant friendship with six-year-old Mia. No matter how hard Dani tries, Ruben is always there to show her there are good people in this world.

This was a welcome change of pace. For most of this year, I think I've been on a fantasy and thriller kick. I haven't read a lot of romance lately, but I'm glad I read this one. I didn't like the instant attraction that Ruben and Dani had. As soon as the book begins, the reader already knows Dani and Ruben like each other. I kind of wanted a couple more chapters before the attraction became clear. I liked Ruben's relationship with Silver's children. He genuinely cared about them regardless of Dani constantly rejecting him. Dani eventually realized it's ok to want happiness not just for her daughters but also for herself. Overall, this was cozy, and endearing story.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from Little Bird Publicity in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

My take on: Start Without Me

It's holiday time, so it's time for holiday reads! In Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman, for the first time in years Adam has an invite to the Thanksgiving table. After several failed rehab attempts, the recovering alcoholic is facing the daunting task of spending the holiday with his family. A holiday meal is something most people look forward to, but not Adam. It means he has to talk to his parents, talk to his siblings (and to their families). It means no alcohol. It means being present and accountable -- something Adam struggles with in his sobriety.

Simple tasks pose a challenge, like making coffee for his family. Adam accidentally breaks the coffee pot and flees the house because he's afraid of the consequences and the potential judgment from his family. To him, it makes more sense to flee the family home in Connecticut and head back to the safety and routine of his new home in Seattle. But a chance encounter at an airport restaurant derails Adam's chance to runaway.

Like Adam, flight attendant Marissa is dreading Thanksgiving dinner. A marriage riddled with strife about race and money, is only going to get worse if Marissa's husband, Robbie, finds out she's pregnant with a baby that's not his (not a spoiler since that little tidbit is revealed very early). When Adam asks to sit at her table, Marissa borders on saying no but says yes. It's a decision that helps and hurts both Marissa and Adam. It helps that they have someone to talk to. But it also hurts that they have someone to talk. Each can be objective about the other's problems. Each person serves as a welcome distraction to their own problems. It's easier for them to talk to a stranger because you don't have to worry about disappointing a stranger. While neither is ready to face their problems, a friendship is born. A friendship that leads to a troubled, sad, funny, and heartwarming road trip.

I would call this the dark and satirical book version of the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Two strangers who wouldn't otherwise be friends find a way to confront the past so that they can move forward in the present. Like real life, nothing wraps in a neat little bow. Both Adam and Marissa have to face the messes they made and by the end there is some hope for the future. I loved this book, and I think you will too!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours