Fall finally arrived and with it the season of hibernating with a good book. It’s all hygge & books, all the time around these parts. When it’s not Hallmark Christmas Movie time that is. My reads definitely reflected the changing time of year. Half of my stack was Christmas or winter-related. The funniest part is that even though I love me a good Xmas story, the real winners this month weren’t in that category. A royal read, a book from my favorite planner creator, and a best-selling mystery I’m legit the last person to read all took top marks. As for Jackie, well… You’re just going to have to read to find out which book she gave 5 stars. So dive into Novel Ideas November 2019 and find your next great read.
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I’ve been a longtime fan of the Simplified Planner so I jumped at the chance to review Emily Ley’s newest book. Thanks to @Libro.fm and @thomasnelson publishing, I got a chance to listen in advance of its release day – which had me squealing with delight since I had preordered the physical copy months ago! I started the book during a time where I was feeling particularly low and it became a balm to my heart. Here I was with a schedule so cluttered by things I “needed” to do and I wasn’t able to take care of myself leading up to a time of year that is always emotionally draining for me. The result was that my usual sadness was compounded by the burden of overwhelm. I was fried. I cried at the littlest things, I went through the motions of being ok and having things under control when inside I wanted to curl up in a ball and just be. And then… at my lowest… I got this book. And then I got inspired. Because Emily tells us it’s OK to not do all the things. That the joy of life is in being present, in making time for spontaneity, and in connecting in a meaningful way with our loved ones. 5 stars.
Back when we made a round-up of books to read if you love The Crown, I mentioned that I wanted to read this book and I finally got around to it! I knew a little about Princess Margaret from what I gleaned from the show, but it was nice to focus on her as the main character. I can’t imagine what it would have been like had she been the Queen of England. She actually reminded me a lot of Wallace Simpson. She was most definitely a royal rebel. She’s still not my favorite royal but this historical fiction helped me understand her life, personality, and pressures. 4 stars.
This story was recommended to me so often in the past few years – and its an Oprah pick so I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype. My library hold finally came due and I finally took the plunge. WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG? Honestly, I love this story about immigration, Wall Street, and the American dream. At a time when election coverage is ramping up, this book seems so relevant. Jeni and Nedi’s story about their move from Cameroon and how it affects their marriage and their morals was compulsively readable. I couldn’t put it down. Don’t wait as long as I did. Read it! 5 stars.
I still can’t believe I didn’t read anything by this author until this year! I have so many books to catch up on. Winter Street was my first Christmas book by Hilderbrand, but I’ll be continuing this series for sure. I fell hard for the Quinn family as they navigate their complicated family dynamic, their personal crises, and running an inn during the holiday season. 🎅🏽 I’m shocked this hasn’t been made into a movie yet! I already have some casting ideas – Candace Cameron, Jessica Lowndes, Rob Lowe, Matthew Davis all make my dream cast. If you are looking for a heartwarming holiday story, this is for you. 4 stars.
(More holiday book picks here.)
This book was heavily hyped when it first came out but having just had a baby I was not interested in reading this whopper of a book. Then in 2018, Patrick Dempsey started in a TV mini-series based on the novel. I finally decided to pick it up. The story of Marcus Goldman and his quest to learn what really happened between his mentor Harry Quebert and 15-year-old Nola Kellergan. Did Harry commit the murder he is now being accused of? Will Marcus write the great American novel? Well, you’ll just have to read it to find out! 4.5 stars.
Miracle on 5th Avenue is a cheesy Christmas Romance about a reclusive writer and a cheerful housekeeper who get snowed in together. Totally predictable but also cute. It is filled with an abundant amount of Christmas romance that is perfect for this time of year. Is it a Pulitzer worthy novel? No, but it’s good fun and totally the vibe I needed when I read it. 3 stars.
Riley Sager is quickly becoming a must-read author for me. I absolutely loved this last book, The Last Time I Lied, so I was eager to pick this one up. When I had Jury duty earlier this month I jumped at the chance to read it. The story is told via a dual timeline about 4 days apart. Jules is hired to apartment-sit at a ridiculously wealthy building in NYC. But there are strange rules to protect the residents of the Bartholomew – no visitors, no disturbing the neighbors, and no spending nights away from the apartment. Not to mention the legends surrounding the lush residence. Let’s just say I was glad I was surrounded by police officers while reading this tale. 3.5 stars.
Did you know there is a whole mystery series featuring Jane Austen as an amateur crime-solver? I had no idea until I stumbled upon this book which takes place over…you guessed it… Christmas. There are a series of suspicious-looking deaths surrounding the home Jane is visiting for the winter holiday. As she strives to solve the mystery before more dead bodies show up, we are treated to a look at the Christmas traditions of Regency-era England. I quite liked the historical part of the tale, but the mystery didn’t hold my attention nearly as well. 2 stars.
James Patterson writes Christmas Romance novellas? Who knew? The premise of this one is funny. A mother decides to announce her upcoming Christmas day wedding without telling her grown children the name of the groom! She wants to ensure they actually come to the wedding and this appears to be the best way for her to get them up all together for Christmas. We dive right into the drama of the family in this contemporary tale that reminds us of the true joy of the season. Let’s just say that I would not be happy if my mom threw a stunt like that, but I enjoyed reading about someone else’s crazy family dynamics. 3 stars.
I’m so torn on this book which is the sequel to Strange the Dreamer. First off, the world-building that Laini creates in this duology is truly amazing. The first book left with such a cliff-hanger that I immediately jumped into the next novel. The problem is that this one ended on a cliff-hanger too, except that there is no planned third book. We were given a sort-of wrapped up conclusion but there were too many open-ended questions for my liking. I’ve decided on 3 stars purely because of my frustration at the end.
I’m so incredibly irritated by this book. The title is Mistletoe Matchmaker. Is it too much to ask for there to be matchmaking in this book? Am I out of line for thinking this would be a holiday romance? Nope. This was a book about a girl going to visit her grandparents’ small town in Ireland for the first time. She tries to make friends, runs a Christmas bazaar, has a very minor flirtation with a cop, and yeah….THAT IS NOT WHAT I THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE. It’s apparently the third book in the Library at the Edge of the World series. I’m sure it was a marketing department choice but I don’t like stuff like that. If it had had an honest title, I probably would have liked it. Sadly, it was 2 stars for me.
I heard so many mixed reviews and I finally decided to read it and then kicked myself for waiting so long. The story is about sexual harassment in its various forms – mostly around the workplace – and how women handle that harassment in different ways. A lot of the negative reviews stem from people not liking the main characters which I take MAJOR issue with. Harassment is harassment. Character likeability should have little to do with whether or not you believe the claims. There is a lot of grey area with the handling of harassment because it’s a personal issue and no two people will respond to the same harassment in the same way. I thought the author did a great job digging into those grey areas with characters who are complex. This would be a wonderful book club choice – in fact, my IRL book club will be reading and discussing it in December! 4 stars.
I picked up this book because I adore Pride and Prejudice and all things Jane Austen. I actually saw the Hallmark version of this book before I realized it was based on a written story. Little did I know just how loosely based it was. The movie and the book are nothing alike! As easy as it was to predict this story, there were a few surprises along the way. My biggest problem was that I didn’t like Darcy or Luke. I wanted the people from the Hallmark movie not the people in this tale. I know some people will like it, but for me, this was a case of the movie being better. 2 stars.
The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy 4 stars
Once I picked up this book I could not put it down. I love a good fantasy- especially one that has great characters and a believable storyline. I mean, that’s what makes a fantasy great. If you read it and can believe that somewhere, in some other place, the story happened, the story becomes that much better. The idea of using memories as a currency is so original. I love how the story developed and the characters grew along their journey. There were a few surprises along the way as well. Thank you so much for my copy of this book. My review is entirely my own and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand 3.5 stars
This was an easy-to-read book that I really enjoyed. There wasn’t anything particularly unique about the book but, I have enjoyed every book by Elin Hilderbrand that I have read. This book centers on the relationship (or lack thereof) between twins who, in the style of the Parent Trap, each grew up with one parent. I finished with a feel-good feeling
Have you read this Goodreads Choice Awards semi-finalist yet? This book came so highly recommended that I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the hype. But, I loved it. Is it about two girls who could not be more different whose fathers fall in love and send them to camp together so they can meet before they all become a family It is told through emails sent back and forth between the girls, family, and friends as well. It is so well written and is ultimately a story about friendship and unconditional love. This middle-grade book deals with really complicated issues like what makes a family in a completely approachable way.
To say that I was excited about Erin Morgenstern‘s new book might be the understatement of the year. I preordered it as soon as the name was released AND I squealed with delight when I got an early listening copy from Libro.fm . Oh, and I also bought another signed copy from my local indie bookstore. So ya, I love it. How to describe this book that is an ode to storytelling…..it’s a love story to books, a fantasy within a love story within a fairy tale. The writing is beautiful- Erin’s signature style of vivid imagery left me completely captivated. I listened with Libro.fm and I read it as well. I truly loved every minute of this book. I stopped trying to understand every sentence and predict the story and let it take me away. I adored it and recommend it for anyone that loved The Night Circus.
I mean, what is there to say about this book that has not been said? I read it with my daughter and my older boys both found ways to be in the room listening every night. My daughter can read this herself but, reading together is such a great way to have time together and if it brings the boys in too, that’s even better!
Evermore by C.J Archer 3 stars
This was the final book in the series by CJ Archer. I enjoyed the book but didn’t feel that it was developed as much as I thought it would be. It was a sweet and easy series to read that is more middle grade than YA. It wrapped up the series nicely.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward 2.5 stars
I know that my rating for this book is not a popular rating. This book is an award winner and the writing is undeniably wonderful and is 5 stars. The story, on the other hand, became strange and went down a path that included ghosts. I wasn’t prepared for that and it threw me. I was having a hard time with the depressing subject matter. The story deals with drugs, violence, and poverty- all of which are completely relevant in today’s society. But, I felt like the characters did not develop throughout the story. When I added everything together, it took away from the wonderful writing.
Matched by Ally Condie 2.5 stars
My son loved this entire series and convinced me to read this book. I tried but, I just did not love it the way that he did. In fact, I thought that it was kind of blah. It was predictable. While it had an interesting premise, I didn’t feel like it developed enough in the first book to convince me to read the rest of the series. My son said the rest of the series was better but I’m not sure that I will find out.
Once again, I was disappointed by the next book in a series. I liked the first two and found this book tedious and hard to get through. I took a very long break of a few months between the first and second halves of this book. I forced myself to get back to it and finally had to get it on kindle because I just could not hold the mammoth book in my hands. The ending was exciting but I think there were about 200 pages that I could have skipped to get to the same place. I know I’m being brutal this month in my reviews.
This was a book that I totally enjoyed. I read reviews that people didn’t like Chloe. They thought she was whiny and annoying. I completely disagree. I thought that she was funny, quirky, and had more depth than I initially thought. It is a well-written romance with a little more story than I usually find in this genre. Thank you so much to Libro.fm for my copy of this book.
Thank you so much to st martins press for my copy of this book. It is a thriller that had me totally captivated from the first page. There is not a single character that I liked. Think mean girls, push-overs, and narcissists all together in an over the top boarding school. It’s Lord of the Flies in a dorm and I couldn’t put it down. The ending wasn’t surprising but, in this case, I didn’t mind knowing “ who dun it”. It didn’t ruin the book at all. A really fun read.
Things we are obsessed with
I, Jackie, am currently obsessed with some Laura Mercier Make-up that I bought. It stays on really well and is really moisturizing. I usually have a really hard time with my concealer. Either it does not stay on or it dries me out. Kirsten is a long-time fan of the line. She loves the tinted moisturizer, under-eye concealer, and bronzer.
Instant Pot : This is a huge lifesaver for me in the busy holiday season. If you are at all hesitant, don’t be. It’s foolproof. You can email me and I will walk you through step by step. I do everything from two whole chickens (in 45 minutes) to the easiest homemade mac and cheese. This model is on sale this weekend.
Grove Collaborative and I have a love-hate relationship. I love their stuff but I hate that I want to buy ALL THE THINGS. I do really like the winter Mrs. Meyers set I got though. I also upgraded my pans for the kitchen and got rid of my traditional non-stick ones after learning about the harmful chemicals they produce. The greenpan ones I picked up at grove are AMAZING.