I truly can not believe how many of the books we read this month ended up being huge hits. The majority of what we read was 4 stars and up, 4 of the books made our Best Books of 2019 list AND we are confident that we found the best book of 2020 already. You read that correctly. Jackie and I got a chance to preview one of the books on our first quarter upcoming releases list and we both think it is going to be the next Where the Crawdads Sing. Which book are we talking about? You’ll just have to read December 2019 Novel Ideas to find out! As a bonus, scroll to the bottom to see which presents we got that we just adored.
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Once you start a series via audiobook do you have to continue listening? I totally do and that’s why I JUMPED at the chance to listen to it early on Libro.fm . When I say jumped, there may have been some cheering as well. I listened to it in one day. My kids and husband weren’t happy that I ignored them but it was so worth it.
The Hazel Wood was on my TBR forever. I loved it so much that I couldn’t believe that I let it sit there for so long. I liked The Night Country even more than the first one. The story is well-written, complex and unlike anything else out there!!! It’s so good Fantasy fiction at its best for sure! This book comes out on January 7th. Pre-order it and then give yourself some uninterrupted time to indulge! 5 stars
Who else loves book recs from indie booksellers? I was so happy to get a recommendation for this book by Kevin Wilson from Main Point Books in Wayne. They promised that it is well written, funny and is a perfect “feel good” book. I was not disappointed at all. I loved this book so much, that it made our list of top books for 2019! The story is about a woman who becomes a nanny for two children who start on fire when they get mad. There is wonderful humor in this book that is centered around strong and beautiful relationships. It is such a well-written and wonderful book I cannot recommend it highly enough. 5 stars
I thought that this YA book that takes place over 10 blocks with 10 stories was well written and fun to read. I will admit that I wish that the stories came together a little bit more than they did. While the stories come full circle, I wish that they are a little more connecting them than geography. 3.5 stars
Ninth House by Leigh Brdugo is a masterfully crafted fantasy that had to be added onto top 20 of the year – so now we are at 21. As a matter of fact, it was one of only two fantasies to make the list and you all know that fantasy is my thing. I love the fact that it takes place at Yale where a number of secret societies actually exist. I felt like it could be true and that I should have gone to Yale so I could learn magic too.
This is a dark, complex fantasy that was so captivating, I listened to it in a day. I would love nothing more than to go to Yale and have Ms. Bardugo take me on a walking tour of all the places that she references in the book. The book ends on a total cliffhanger which usually makes me mad- pissed off is a more apt description. I like a clear ending. In this case, I am only a little mad because it means the story isn’t over and I cannot wait for the next book. 5 stars.
Thank you so much to Netgalley for my copy of this book. All opinions are my own. This is such a wonderful story about Missy Carmichael. She has lived her life in a constant state of worry and regret. Now that she is alone with her thoughts, she has the time to wonder if she would have done things differently. Missy is estranged from her daughter, her son lives in Australia and the love of her life, is gone. She spends her days drinking and cleaning overcome by her loneliness, secrets, and regrets. With the help of a wonderful dog and some beautiful friendships, Missy begins to learn the power of forgiving. This is perfect for anyone who loved “A Man Called Ove.”
My family and I have taken a few overnight trips during the holiday season and this book was the perfect book to listen to during the car ride there and back. They are short and fun reads. Kate Wise is a retired FBI agent who finds herself involved in a case that is close to home. Kate is bored with retirement and this might be the case that gives her something to help with. a fun and quick psychological thriller. 3 stars
The second book in the Kate Wise Series, If She Saw is another quick and easy psychological Thriller. Kate Wise is a brilliant retired FBI agent who is renowned for her ability to solve cases. Now, when she is called once again to help with a case, she must decide if she can balance life with her family and granddaughter and life in the Bureau as well. 3 stars.
Does a book that comes out on 12/31 count as a 2019 book or a 2020 book? Such a Fun Age is a remarkable debut contemporary fiction from Philadelphia native Kiley Reid. This novel made me think and question the role our environment plays in who we are and who we become. I love how the author addresses racism without drilling it in. Rather, she shows what it looks like from the overt to the subtle. The book focuses on the relationship between an African -American woman who is a nanny and her employer who is a white woman. Set to release Dec 31st, we had to include this book in our top choices for the year but, we also included it in our post of upcoming new releases for 2020. It’s that good. 5 stars
This book was an absolutely perfect book to read over my break. It was so easy to read with the perfect amount of love story and animal rescue. The writing isn’t deep but it has a little more to it than I thought it would when I picked it up. This book is the perfect “rom-com”. 4 stars
Does anyone else get really nervous about the last book in a trilogy they love? Thankfully, I loved this final book in the Folk of Air trilogy. I absolutely adored the first book in the series, The Cruel Prince but for some reason, the second book in the series left me wanting more. This final book was exactly what the trilogy needed. I finished the last chapter and didn’t want it to be over. Every question was answered, every loose end was tied up and the series finished with a bang. This was 4.5 stars for me.
Thank you so Netgalley for my copy of this book. All opinions are my own. I was so excited to receive a copy of this book. What could be better than a book about a bookstore, Paris, and Christmas- especially at Christmas time? When Sarah Smith, a bookshop owner is offered a chance to do a bookshop exchange with her Parisian friend, she jumps at the chance. Her book shop has been struggling, her boyfriend is consistently away on assignment and she feels stagnant. She hopes Paris will be just what she needs. I wish the relationship between Sarah and her boyfriend was more believable. I feel like I came in without a background of why these two are together for reasons other than their chemistry. This book was a cute and easy read. 3 stars
Looking for a last-minute Christmas Read or the perfect getaway read? Royal Holiday was the perfect first read for winter break. When Maddie gets Kirsten’s dream gig (styling a Royal or let’s face it, hanging out with a Royal), she brings her mom, Vivian, with her to England. Vivian meets a very handsome gentleman who happens to be the Queen’s private secretary. Sparks fly but will this be more than just a holiday romance? This adorable read is a perfect holiday/vacation read especially for those who love anything Royal. I can’t believe Kirsten let me read it first! 3 stars.
The wives is definitely high on my list of thrillers for 2019. It will lead you around and around, back and forth, so that you never really have an idea of which direction you are going. This is a fun and quick read- Perfect for a quiet night in, a relaxing afternoon or a post celebratory cooldown. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the ending but the fact that I am still thinking about it says something. I hope 2020 has as many good thrillers as the past few years. 3.5 stars
This is another perfect pick from our favorite Indie bookstore. Main Point Books in Wayne did a fabulous job of matching me up with this book that I might not have read otherwise. I needed something with a great story. that would make me feel good and this was perfect. This is the story of two sisters, one farm and the lives that they share. I loved this book for its great story, quirky subject, and great writing. I sat down with this book and had read over a hundred pages before I looked up. 4 stars
I started listening to this book and loved it so much that I wanted to make this the last book that I read in 2019. I wanted it to be the perfect start of 2020. There is so much to say about this book that I am not even sure I can properly put it into words. Kirsten did a better job than I could. This is an amazingly powerful book about migrants who are trying to get safely to the united states. My heart did not stop pounding the entire time I read this book. It should be required reading for everyone. Thank you to Libro.fm for my copy of this book. 5 stars
Thanks to Libro.Fm and Flatiron books for my free review copy. All opinions are my own. Is it too early to pick the best book of 2020? I don’t think so. American Dirt is going to be the Where the Crawdads Sing of 2020. It’s incredible. Incredible. The story starts with Lydia and her 8-year-old son Luca as they hide from the cartel who are massacring their entire extended family. The opening is heart pounding and the jolt it gives to your heart never lets up.
Lydia and Luca then have to make the perilous journey North as migrants. What they go through as they try to outrun the cartel is devastating, thought-provoking, and scary. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. I never knew that a scene about putting a bandaid on a blister could be so suspenseful. I don’t want to tell any details because this story is about the unfolding of real-time events and the backstory that lead to the massacre. You all need to read this book before the elections. It’s important. Possibly the most important book I have read in the past decade. If this doesn’t win at least one award, I will be shocked. It was magnificent. ALL THE STARS ⭐️
I waited a while to listen to this story because I had heard so many mixed reviews. The set-up of a famous poet in her 100s finally revealing the story of who Luna was extraneous to the book, but the story of a girl, her family, and her life was moderately compelling. If this doesn’t sound like a resoundingly positive review it’s because it wasn’t. The story was enjoyable but forgettable all in one. It was fine. The writing was nice but it just never really got my attention. 2.5 stars.
Thanks to NetGalley and Hogarth Press or my free review copy. All opinions are my own. Why did I wait so long to read this book? Because it was so hyped and the premise seemed meh to me. Here’s the thing about Normal People – on the surface it seemed like it might be boring. The son of a housekeeper secretly befriends the daughter of the owner of the house his mother cleans. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a coming-of-age tale. It’s a story of how love really is; how it hurts, how it disappoints, what unsaid things and miscommunications can do to a relationship.
It felt really real. And the way the story was told… it was almost clinical in it’s telling, leaving the reader to pick up on the undercurrents and tensions without having them slammed in your face. I didn’t know whether I wanted them to be together or apart, but I was enthralled the whole time. This was just shy of 5 stars for me and damn close to making our best of the year list. I truly can not wait to see this book be adapted by The BBC. 4.5 stars.
Thanks to Melanie Summers for my free review copy. All opinions are my own. I first reviewed Melanie’s The Crown Jewels trilogy a few years and I loved it. It literally had me cackling and swooning all at once, so I had to jump at the chance to review her newest series – Paradise Bay. The first book did give me a few chuckles as it set up both the new series locale (Paradise Bay Resort) and it’s owner’s love story. Here’s where the problem was for me. The owner’s name is Harrison and the female lead calls him Handsome Harrison and talks about his abs and his… well…. My brother’s name is Harrison! It’s really hard to feel gooey for a book when the only other person you know with that name is someone you NEVER want to think about like that. I had to constantly read it as Harold or something which just didn’t work well in my mind.
I did love the story, the new location, and the funny characters. I can’t wait to start the next book in the series – but I just couldn’t swoon over this particular lead. Don’t worry though, I think most of you will find Handsome Harrison quite charming. I immediately gave this book to my Harrison’s wife and I’m confident she will enjoy it. 3.5 Stars.
Thanks to Melanie Summers for my free review copy. All opinions are my own. The next in the Paradise Bay series had me smiling the whole time. When Pierce the hunky writer of the Clash of Crowns series (clearly GOT) needs to escape to write the rest of his book, he travels to Paradise Bay where Emma, the new personal chef is looking to make a name for her self. Hilarity ensues with a series of giggle-inducing scenes. I thought their love story was very sweet with each person wanting the best for each other even if they couldn’t be together while it happened. 4 stars.
I started out liking this coming of age story as Vivian struggles to find her place in the world of NYC’s vivacious showgirl scene. However, as the book progressed I began to like it less and less. I just felt that Vivian never grew up. Ever. Her promiscuity also came out of nowhere for me. Here’s the thing- if you’ve read Three Women or talked to women who’ve experienced trauma you know that a lot of those hyper-sexual behaviors stem from that trauma. Vivian never experienced trauma so her over-active life long sex drive never made sense to me. I’m not prudish. Three Women made my best of the year post. This felt like gratuitous sex for no reason and it irked me to no end. Given that her sex life is the source of the entire plot, I’m sure you can understand why this was a miss for me. 2.5 stars.
This very short memoir by Gary Janetti was more a collection of short stories than anything else. I read it at the car dealership in one sitting and had to stop myself from being that crazy person a few times while reading it. I knew nothing of Janetti before I got this book, but I felt like I instantly knew him as a friend. His humor is self-deprecating with a side of diva and I was utterly charmed. 4 stars.
This book. I wanted to like it. The writing was incredible so prosaic and yet, I was totally bored. It didn’t keep my attention and I truly can’t tell you what it’s about because I just didn’t connect with it at all. I’m sorry. This is on so many best of book lists and it fell flat for me. Sad but true. 2 stars.
I picked up this non-fiction book about the life of author Margaret Wise Brown because I wanted to try a genre I don’t usually read. Biographies are usually too much info about one person for my liking and this book felt that way too. Margaret Wise Brown, author of Good Night, Moon and other classics, did lead a fascinating and colorful life. I was truly interested in her as a person but I think I wanted an article summary of her life, not a full book. I got about halfway through, put it down and a year later never picked it back up. I finally admitted to myself that I was DNFing this book (not-finishing) and taking it off my GoodReads currently reading list.
I am a huge, HUGE, fan of the Outlander book and TV series. No author does an epic novel like DG. As soon as one TV series ends, I start listening to the next book in the series to get me through Droughtlander (we have a whole list of other books to help you get through Droughtlander too.) Usually, I fly through the next book in the series but this one took me 10 months to listen too. The first day in this particular novel took over 5 hours of audio. WHAT. Most of the action doesn’t start until 24 hours into the book. After I was able to get to hour 24, I finished the novel in 3 days but getting to the meat of this novel took too long. I have heard that the next one sucks you in sooner though! 2.5 stars. 😬
Thanks to NetGalley and Emara Publishing for my free review copy. All opinions are my own. Continuing with our Droughtlander coverage… now this book I loved! Some Like it Plaid jumped out at my on NetGalley for two reasons – Abs and Tartan 🥰. There is literally no shame in my Scotland game. I love a good brogue, kilt, or red head. In this story, our hunky future chieftain leaves 1st century Scotland for 2019 San Francisco to catch himself a wifey, whom he promptly teleports back to Scotland (Druid magic IDK) and shenanigans ensue. Funny, romantic, and totally cute. I loved it! 4 stars.
Thanks to NetGalley and Orion for my free review copy. All opinions are my own. I read 25 Days ‘til Christmas because I wanted a lovely little romantic Christmas story. The story is about a single mother who decides to do an advent calendar of activities in the hopes of bringing life back to her home. A cute guy befriends them and I thought I was getting the romance I was looking for. In actuality, the book takes a dark turn and deals with loneliness, depression, childhood disabilities, and grieving. It was so much deeper than I thought when looking at the peppy cover. I loved it. Truly. I was riveted to the book as I cheered for Kate and her son. I wanted to personally walk into the pages of the book and lift her up when life knocked her down. I got the happy Christmas ending I wanted, but in a more meaningful way than I initially expected. I can’t recommend this one enough. 4.5 stars.
I read this book as research for our January Women in the Workplace book club post. I was expecting it to be OK, but I couldn’t put it down. I loved the insider look at Silicon Valley. Sophia starts off as a woman who seems incapable and flighty and grows into a serious power-player in the tech industry. There are lots of available discussion points here for a book club but it would make a fun vacation read too. 4 stars.
I grabbed The Christmas Pact as my free Audible Original for this month. I don’t usually snag these but I thought a cute little audiobook novella would be the perfect story to listen to on Christmas day. Riley Kennedy emails an advice columnist for help but the columnist sends the response to Kennedy Riley instead. Soon the two are agreeing to be faux-dating for the holidays to appease both of their families. Utterly predictable, but charming none the less. 3 stars.
I read this book as WAY advanced research for August’s reading challenge topic after it was recommended to me by Handsome Harrison’s wife. This non-fiction memoir about Beck’s life as the stenographer in the Obama White House read like a fiction book. It was like Sex and the City meets Scandal. I had no idea how juicy things got in Washington! I also appreciated how much Beck respected the Obamas and the work they did for our country. 4 stars
Another book for research for our reading challenge! This one is for March’s topic – Old Hollywood. The fictionalized book about Loretta Young’s life was captivating. To me, the best kind of historical fiction is about people that really lived. If you are like me, you might not have known much about Loretta Young’s life, but my parents knew and loved her. I could see this book as being a perfect story for an intergenerational book club. 4 stars.
Thanks to Netgalley and W.W. Norton for my free review copy. All opinions are my own. I was looking for a non-fiction read when I stumbled across the gorgeous cover of this book. I’m a huge fan of the period romance and have read my fair share of coming-out parties, debutante balls, and other aristocratic functions. I thought this book would help me understand more about the customs of the monied elite. I learned all I would ever need to know on the topic. I found it to be interesting but at times a bit dry. 3 stars.
Our Favorite Things
Remember when I posted our gift guide and I mentioned a hairdryer I wanted that was under $40? Well, I got the hairdryer and holy volume, Batman! Look at the volume! Look at that swoop! I’m terrible when it comes to doing my hair, but I swear this hairdryer is idiot-proof. I haven’t stopped getting compliments on how my hair looks. With over 3,000 positive reviews, I know I’m not alone in this.
I’m all for ease of traveling and these packing cubes that I picked up on whim are incredible. I love how they keep my clothes folded neatly together without shifting in flight. The spots and zebra stripes make the cubes pretty and they fold together in the pouch for easy storage. Best travel accessory ever.
My family has a tradition of ringing in the New Year eating pizza, playing games, and lounging in PJs. I always like to pick up a cute new set of PJs to start the year off fresh and this year’s find is so comfy! I actually tried them out last night and I didn’t want to take them off. Lightweight with a wide band, these are perfection.