I can’t believe I did it, but I not only finished all 52 books, but I have a 53rd one as well, and it’s not even New Years. I’ll do a recap post a bit later looking at all the books I’ve read and planning for 2019.

2018 Book Challenge

53. The Good Girl

Here’s what happens when Mia Dennett goes missing one night. Told from the POVs of her kidnapper, her mother, and the detective.

  • Author: Mary Kubica
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: Thriller
  • Location: Chicago, IL + Grand Marais, MN
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

So… I actually think this book had the potential to be really interesting, but it completely ruined it in the details. Like, could be anymore cliched?! Guess what Mia’s skin color is? Better yet, guess what color her hair is? Guess how affluent her family is? Guess how horrible her father is? Guess the skin color of the “real” bad guy? Guess how poor the kidnapper was once upon a time? Good lord, lady, come up with better descriptions!

52. Christmas Eve 1914

A play that describes how the miraculous Christmas truce of 1914 came about in WWI.

  • Author: Charles Olivier
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: WWI Fiction
  • Location: Frontlines in WWI
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

This was part of Audible’s free selection for December, so I listened to it while I was working on something else. It’s a touching tale told from the British side, and it’ll give you a nice punch in the gut with emotion at the end.

book challenge

51. I Am Pilgrim

A secret agent is trying to retire and find a normal life when he’s pulled back in by the thread of a biological massacre.

  • Author: Terry Hayes
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Thriller
  • Location: Saudi Arabia, Paris, NYC, various places
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I mean… The plot is good. It’s a thriller, and you get sucked into it. The villain was far more fascinating than the main character, and the descriptions are gruesome. I found myself getting stressed out just listening to some of the scenes. I do think the way it wraps itself up is a little cliched but not too bad.

The real issue I have, though, is in the details. Like, if you kept the author a secret, I would have guessed it was a middle-aged white dude writing it. Can’t tell which casual commentary came more often — the Islamophobic or the mildly misogynistic.

book challenge

50. River in Darkness

A memoir of a man who has the worst of both world – half-Japanese and half-Korean in 1950s Japan whose father is offered the chance to return to North Korea and escape discrimination in Japan.

THOUGHTS

This book is going to break your heart. It’s a relatively short read, which is probably a mercy because it’s so sad. I mean, it’s a book about a man and how he escaped North Korea to tell his tale, so you know it’s not going to be happy. But still, it’s rough. And if you know anything about NK, you know even the happiest of endings for refugees aren’t that happy.

book challenge

49. The Little Book of Lykke

A study in happiness or “lykke.”

  • Author: Meik Wiking
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: Lifestyle Nonfiction
  • Location: Various Places
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Just a fun book that examines happiness around the world! It goes into what makes us happy, why some countries are happier than others, and case studies of how people created their own happiness. It’s a fun, cheerful book that was the pick-up I needed in this dreary December.

The Question of Red | 2018 Book Challenge

48. The Question of Red

Clever Amba is stuck between Salwa, the lovely teacher her parents approve of, and Bhisma, a doctor and communist sympathizer.

  • Author: Laksmi Pamuntjak
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: Historical Fiction
  • Location: Mainly Yogyakarta, Buru Island, Kadipura, Indonesia
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I don’t think I’ve ever read a single book set in Indonesia! This was part of Amazon’s Free Book day, and I loved it. Besides the fact that it hits all my weak points — forbidden love, a strong-willed female character, and ties to history, it’s just a fascinating tale.

It really goes into a time period I didn’t even know existed. Also the writing is just incredible. I read that the author actually did the translating herself, which makes sense because it completely lacks any awkwardness that tends to creep into even the best of translations.

47. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Told through letters, this book is about a writer, Juliet, in post-WWII and the unlikely friendship she strikes with a small community in Guernsey.

  • Author: Marry Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: WWII Fiction
  • Location: London + Guernsey, UK
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Ahhhh, this book is so unbelievably charming! I, of course, saw the movie first. I love Lily James, Jessica Brown Findlay, and Michael Huisman when he’s not playing a lame oldest brother of haunted siblings. I’m also a total sucker for beautiful landscapes and, as you can see by my book challenge, anything related to WWII. The movie was so beautiful, I planned on reading the book as soon as I finished it.

Anyway, it took me a while to finish because I had a physical copy of it, and I kept misplacing it! I finally finished it at home right before Christmas, and it was as lovely and wonderful as you’d hope a book could be. I wish I came off as effortlessly charming as Juliet!

book challenge

46. The Diplomat’s Daughter

The tale of how three people survived World War II. Emi Kato, whose father is a Japanese diplomat, finds herself in a U.S. internment camp. Leo Hartman, her former Jewish-Austrian boyfriend, must survive a Jewish ghetto in Shanghai. And Christian Lange, whose German-American parents are accused of being Nazi sympathizers and sent to the same camp as Emi.

  • Author: Karin Tanabe
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: WWII Fiction
  • Location: Japan, US, China, Germany
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Whoops! This is another one I listened to back in the summer, and I completely forgot to record it. I was telling a friend about how many WWII books I seemed to read this year, as I was telling her, I realized I’d left this one out.

This is another one I liked but also was a bit frustrated by. It brought up yet more aspects of WWII that I had never really read about, but I was ultimately a little underwhelmed by the love plot. I almost wish the author had figured out a different way to connect all three characters or written separate books.

book challenge

45. The Wild Girl

A tale of Dortchen Wild, the source of many of the Brothers Grimm tales and later wife of Wilhelm Grimm.

  • Author: Kate Forsyth
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: Historical Fiction
  • Location: Kassel, Germany
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I don’t know why, but when I was settled at home in the winter, all I wanted to do was reread this book. It’s one of those books I go back and reread sections of all the time, so I decided to return and reread the whole thing.

I skimmed over some of the more difficult parts (Trigger warning — there’s some domestic and sexual abuse). I just love how well- researched the novel is and how it pieces together Dortchen and Wilhelm’s relationship.

book challenge

44. What Happened

This is Clinton’s response to the disastrous 2016 election.

  • Author: Hillary Clinton
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Political Memoir
  • Location: Around the U.S.
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

It took me a while to listen through this book because it brought up a lot of raw hurt and anger I had for most of 2017. But it’s so worth the read, and I wish she had gotten to say everything she had written instead of the media focusing on her emails.

Yes, Clinton isn’t above reproach, and there are some things in her history I really wish she’d address, but at the end of the day I’m never not going to be angry she’s not my president.

Also, fuck you, James Comey.

book challenge

43. The Nightingale

Two French sisters must survive World War II. While Vianne just wants to protect her daughter, Isabelle joins an underground resistence.

  • Author: Kristin Hannah
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: WWII Fiction
  • Location: Paris and Loire Valley, France
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I mean, it’s set in WWII, no one’s going into this book expecting rainbows and butterflies! I do think Hannah has a tendency to really get overdramatic with her novels (at least with this one and Firefly Lane), but for some reason I find myself loving them in the end.

Also, I was reading reviews afterwards, and people kept saying they were referred to the book because of All the Light We Cannot See, and, wow, besides being set in WWII, these books are nothing alike. I enjoy both but in different ways. AtLWCS is very much an example of literary fiction, which means the plot is more subtle, the writing is more refined, and it’s sometimes a little less accessible for regular reading. 

TN is more straightforward in its writing; there’s a lot more action, and it’s the kind of book you could find yourself getting sucked into reading late into the night.

Rilla of Ingleside by LM Montgomery | 2018 Book Challenge

42. Rilla of Ingleside

The final book of the Anne Shirley series – this one is about her youngest daughter, Rilla. Dreamy and frivolous Rilla must grow up fast under the shadow of World War I.

  • Author: L.M. Montgomery
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: WWI Fiction
  • Location: Prince Edward Island
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

AHHHHHH. Okay, so I decided to skip to the last book because I knew I wouldn’t love re-reading Anne of Ingleside and Rainbow Valley. While Anne of the Island is probably my favorite Anne-centric book, I’m not going to lie, this is favorite of the whole bunch. (It’s actually one of my favorite novels of all time). It’s just SO GOOD. It’s so different from the rest of the books though, it’s almost not fair to compare them in a ranking.

book challenge

41. Anne’s House of Dreams

This one follows Anne and Gilbert’s first few years of marriage in Glen St. Mary.

  • Author: L.M. Montgomery
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: Fiction
  • Location: Prince Edward Island
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Ugh. I remember loving this book at 13 because, marriage! But reading it as I’m older makes me a bit sad. I don’t understand why L.M. didn’t give Anne more to do! She and Gilbert also start to fade into the background characters they become for the rest of the novels, which is sad.

I also hate how we’re robbed of scenes with characters we’ve been with from Book 1. For example, Anne and Gilbert return to Avonlea for Christmas, and we get maybe a paragraph or two mentioning it. I want five chapters dedicated to Marilla and Rachel Lynde and Davy and Dora!

I do always love Leslie’s story, though.

The House by the River by Lena Manta | 2018 Book Challenge

40. House by the River

Follow five daughters who’ve grown up near Mt. Olympus and want to get out into the world.

  • Author: Lenta Manta
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: Women’s Fiction
  • Location: Greece & the US
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Part of me absolutely loved this book, and another part of me had a lot of skeptical questions. The age gaps between the couples were bizarre and some of them quite creepy. I also thought it was just plain odd that none of them kept in touch after they left the house by the river! They try to explain it a bit because two of the sisters ended up in Athens at the same time, but it’s a weak one at best. All I could imagine was my sophomore year suite mate rolling her eyes and saying, “Drama, drama, drama.”

The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar | 2018 Book Challenge

39. The Map of Salt and Stars

In the present Nour and her family become refugees as they escape the violence around them while in the past Rawiya disguises herself as a boy to apprentice with a famous mapmaker.

  • Author: Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Historic & Contemporary Fiction
  • Location: Syria
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I got this book when Audible was having a big sale around Black Friday, and I was absolutely in love with listening to it. It’s just a beautiful story that hits everything you want it to without being cliche or manipulating your emotions.

book challenge

38. Anne of the Island

The third Anne book – this time she and Gilbert are off to Redmond College in Kingsport.

  • Author: L.M. Montgomery
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: Fiction
  • Location: Kingsport, Nova Scotia
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

This is my FAVORITE Anne book by far. I mean, I’m sure you can guess why — it’s when Anne finally realizes she likes Gil. I actually haven’t read this one since I was younger than their ages in the book, so it’s fun rereading it now that I’m well past their ages. Phil might actually be my favorite character because she has absolutely 0 reservations about calling it like she sees it!

book challenge

37. Wedding Night

Fliss must stop her sister from consummating her impetuous marriage with an old flame so they can get an annulment.

  • Author: Sophie Kinsella
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Romantic Comedy
  • Location: London, England
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

This is an absolutely ridiculous plot, but it’s a fun, light read that had me laughing along. It’s such a weird concept, I don’t know how it got through the initial brainstorming phases. I liked it way better than the other Kinsella book I read recently but not as much as My So-Called Perfect Life.

36. Little Fires Everywhere

The picture perfect Richardson family’s idyllic lives are turned upside down when a mysterious artist and her daughter move in.

  • Author: Celest Ng
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: Romantic Comedy
  • Location: Shaker Heights, OH
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I actually listened to this way back in July when I was in Jeju, but somehow I forgot to add it to my list back then. I LOVED the writing style, but what the hell was that plot?

book challenge

35. The Woman in Cabin 10

Aboard a luxury Norwegian cruise, Lo Blacklock things she’s gone crazy as she witnesses a murder in the middle of the night but no one believes here.

  • Author: Ruth Ware
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: Murder Mystery
  • Location: A Norwegian Cruise
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

It took me a few reads to get into the story, but once I was, I finished like 140 pages in a day. I enjoyed the twists and turns the plot took, and it didn’t make me as depressed as the author’s other book, In a Dark, Dark Wood. I know it is a bit slow to start, but I liked the descriptions of the boat and Norway and her job as a travel writer!

book challenge

34. Emma

Emma Woodhouse’s charmed life has led her to a certain set of beliefs and opinions. It’s only when meddling in other’s lives does she realize just how wrong she might be.

  • Author: Jane Austen
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Literature
  • Location: English Countryside
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

You know, I’d never actually finished Emma, and I started it ages ago as a kid. Since then I’ve enjoyed the Romola Garai version and, of course, Clueless. Guys, I love Clueless, and listening to Emma made me realize just how well they nailed the modern adaption. Emma is one of my favorite Austen characters because I love how independent and confident she is.

book challenge

33. Last Train to Istanbul

Two Turkish sisters wind up on different paths that has them racing against the clock to rescue the younger sister and her Jewish husband from the Nazi occupation in France.

  • Author: Alyse Kulin
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: Historical Fiction
  • Location: Ankara, Paris, and Marseilles
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

At first, I wanted to be wildly annoyed with the main character, Selva, because she constantly put herself in danger trying to be heroic. Don’t get me wrong, we need heroes, but her kid needs a mother more! But I realized she was only doing her best, and she’s still human, and this story is just freaking good.

It’s well-researched, and it’s a take on WWII, I’d never read about before — Jewish Turkish citizens in France trying to escape. Honestly, I wouldn’t have thought it remotely real if it weren’t for the afterword where the author describes her research into it!

There are little things I wish had a bit better of a conclusion, like Sabitha and the psychiatrist or how Selva’s husband actually feels about her beyond duty, but that’s life.

book challenge

32. Girls & Boys

What happens when Daphne has to move in with her ex-fiancé’s new fiancé’s ex-boyfriend…

  • Author: Dennis Kelly
  • How I Read: Special Audible with Carey Mulligan
  • Category: Fiction – Play
  • Location: England
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Umm… Well, that was certainly a story. I honestly didn’t know where it was going to go, so by the time they start revealing something’s off with this tale, it goes from like 0 – 100 real quick.

31. Anne of Avonlea

Sequel to Anne of Green Gables, following Anne from ages 16-18 as she becomes a schoolteacher in Avonlea.

  • Author: L.M. Montgomery
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: Coming of Age
  • Location: Prince Edward Island, Canada
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I mean, it’s not my favorite of the books, but that’s like saying chocolate cake isn’t your favorite way to consume chocolate. It’s still a lovely story with fun characters, dreamy musings, and a lovely plot. These books are so wholesome, they make for a nice break in between all the other books I read. Still sad Gilbert Blythe isn’t even based off a real person haha

Serendipity by Ashok Ferrey | 2018 Book Challenge

30. Serendipity

Fed up with her 1980s London life, Piyumi Segarajasingham jumps on the chance to return to her home in Sri Lanka and fight to keep a part of her mother’s family’s estate from being sold by her relatives.

  • Author: Ashok Ferrey
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: 1980s Historical Fiction
  • Location: Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

This was such an odd little book! I picked it up at a bookstore on Mayne Island, read about half of it, and then forgot it in a restaurant! Luckily, I found it on Amazon and ordered it to finish when I got back to Providence. It feels like a quick read, but I also feel like I didn’t 100% understand what was going on. I’m not familiar with Sri Lanka’s history, and I also feel like the author had a ton of anachronisms that made it harder to keep track of the time.

It is an interesting story, and I felt for the main character who was trying to save something she idealized. I thought she was oddly passive in her actual love life, which I didn’t get at all, and it made me feel bad for the guy constantly helping and wanting to be with her.

29. Luckiest Girl Alive

Ani FAnelli appears to have it all in NYC but two major events from high school haunt her to this day. She’s forced to face both of them as one of those events is about to become a documentary…

  • Author: Jessica Knoll
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: Mystery
  • Location: Main Line, PA and NYC
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

To be honest, I have one question for the author that I can’t seem to find an answer to:

What in the Lord’s name is up with the main character’s name and weird capitalization?!

With that out of the way, I actually liked this book. I read it in like a day, and while I probably wouldn’t put it on a list of my favorites, I thought the author did a good job tackling a lot of subject matter in less than 400 pages. It kind of is a lot, but it does explain a rather unlikeable main character.

Also, I was getting such deja vu with all the name dropping since I grew up right around the setting of Ani’s high school years. From shopping at the King of Prussia Mall to my friend living in Chester Springs to knowing just how amazing Wawa is… I’ll admit it probably buttered me up to the actual plot.

28. Anne of Green Gables

Anne Shirley is accidentally adopted by brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. This book follows her as she grows from a feisty, moony young girl to a clever, loving young woman.

  • Author: L.M. Montgomery
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: Coming of Age
  • Location: Prince Edward Island, Canada
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

UGHHHH, I love this story so much. After finishing “Anne with an E,” I decided I wanted to go back and re-read the whole series from start to finish. I read the whole thing in middle school and fell in love (Gilbert Blythe 4 Lyfe). Since then I’ve reread Rilla of Ingleside and Anne of the Island maybe once or twice because they’re my favorites. I’m interested to see how different my experience is now that I’m older. It’s weird to be the same age as Book 5 Anne vs. when I first read it as a 13-year-old!

Anyway, the first book is as lovely and dreamy as I remembered it. I still think of some of the things Anne brings up, like kindred spirits, and I’m reading all these books to my daughter or son someday. Also, I forgot how persistent Anne was in her hatred of Gilbert, and how much he steadfastly liked her from the very beginning when he called her “Carrots.” Poor Gil haha

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton | 2018 Book Challenge

27. The House at Riverton

In 1924, an up and coming poet shoots himself with only two sisters as witnesses. These same two sisters would never talk again, and the only one to know the truth of the whole situation is their former maid.

  • Author: Kate Morton
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Historical Fiction
  • Location: Rivertown House, England
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I also had this book downloaded for ages before finally getting around to listening to it. Honestly, sitting down to write about it now, I can’t even remember how it ended that’s how bored I got. I would have liked to learn more about the narrator, Grace’s, story independent of the two sisters. She alludes to so many interesting things she decides to do after the events of that night, and I feel a bit cheated.

26. Ten Women

A psychologist brings together some of her female patients so they can tell their stories.

  • Author: Marcela Serrano
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: Women’s Fiction
  • Location: Santiago & Around Chile
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

This is a super simple format, and I actually think I’ll try reading it in its original Spanish down the line. Basically, each chapter is from a different woman’s point of view, and it ends with Natasha’s own life story. It’s more of a commentary of Chilean women over the 20th century and their different experiences, which I think is super compelling on its own.

25. The Hypnotist’s Love Story

When a hypnotherapist falls in love for a man with a stalker ex-girlfriend, she finds herself more intrigued than unsettled.

  • Author: Liane Moriarty
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Romantic Mystery
  • Location: Beachfront Australian Town
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

You know, I feel like Liane Moriarty is such a hit or miss for me. I started reading her after Big Little Lies, and I either end the book liking it or feeling meh.

This one was somewhere in between because I feel like she had a really interesting concept and commentary going, but it really didn’t go anywhere. Also, I kept feeling like Patrick would have some darker intentions, and it led to pretty much nothing.

book challenge

24. I’ve Got Your Number

When Poppy Wyatt loses her engagement ring and phone during a hotel drill, she finds a random phone. Deciding to keep it, she accidentally inserts herself into the life of businessman, Sam Roxton.

  • Author: Sophie Kinsella
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Romantic Comedy
  • Location: London
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Actually, this was one of my least favorite of Kinsella’s stories, and I freaking love her. She’s my go-to chick lit author, and I think I must have gone through nearly all her books at this point. I listened to this so quickly, I don’t even remember much of it, but it was pretty unrealistic even for a Kinsella book.

I didn’t get much of the chemistry with the two main characters, maybe because it was mostly over the phone, and I’m not sure what the heck the main character was doing most of the time.

Her more recent one, My So-Called Perfect Life, is much better with much more interesting characters.

book challenge

23. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

A fictional look at the famous Fitzgeralds from the enigmatic, Zelda’s point of view.

  • Author: Therese Anne Fowler
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Historical Fiction
  • Location: Montgomery, AL, NYC, Paris, Asheville
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I had this Audible book for ages but finally got around to listening to it in the middle of this book challenge. I kind of hated it to the point that I left a Goodreads review which I never do. It just takes an interesting real-life person and kind of sanitizes her and her actions! Plus it makes every person a 2D version of themselves, including the titular character. Not a fan. There has to be a better-written piece on Zelda somewhere.

22. Always and Forever, Lara Jean

The end of the trilogy that started with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

  • Author: Jenny Han
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: YA Romance
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Actually, what I like about Jenny Han’s writing is that she subtly has Lara Jean mature over the three books, which I feel is much harder to do than it seems. This is the most mature version of LJ, and you can tell in her actions and responses to things. I thought it also dealt with a very real problem a lot of high school sweethearts deal with as they approach the end of HS and the beginning of college, which is a whole new world.

Also, of course, Peter is so unrealistically cute, my teen heart would have died.

21. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Harry August is one of the unique humans who is destined to live his life over and over again. At the end of one of his lives, he learns the end of the world is coming, and he must find a way to stop it.

  • Author: Claire North
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: Science Fiction
  • Location: England & the World
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Autumn recommended this book to me, so I downloaded it. She’s super picky about what she likes and reads whole books in an afternoon, so if this got more than her stamp of approval, it has to be good. I really liked it, and I LOVED Claire North’s writing.

It was such an interesting concept since most would just think Harry August is immortal and going through the centuries, but in reality, he’s repeating his life in a loop. More than the main conflict of preventing the world from ending, I enjoyed how she approached the character of someone who’s mentally around a thousand years old going through the same life over and over. I mean imagine having the wisdom of three generations and being forced to be 5-years-old again.

book challenge

20. Jane Austen at Home

This is a nonfiction book that looks into Jane Austen’s life as it relates to the idea of home.

  • Author: Lucy Worsley
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Location: England
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I mean, I’d honestly consider something like Austenland, so I’m not a hard sell on anything related to Jane Austen’s life. I enjoyed it and its unique angle on Jane’s home and family life, but it’s pretty much something only people interested in her would enjoy!

book challenge

19. I Still love You

A very cute sequel to All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

  • Author: Jenny Han
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: YA Romance
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

This book was super cute, but there were definitely some odd things Peter did that I don’t think he should have gotten away with so easily. I get that it was about Lara Jean getting over her insecurities with Gen, but, like, dude was acting shady at some points and LJ had every right to be pissed.

book challenge

18. The Light of the Fireflies

A little boy has always lived in a bunker with his family, never questioning some uncomfortable truths about them… until now.

  • Author: Paul Pen
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: Dystopian Fiction
  • Location: An Underground Bunker
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I made my friend, Autumn, read this book, so I could have someone to discuss it with. I started this expecting some interesting coming-of-age novel with a touch of dystopian mystery. NOPE. This story felt a little off from the get go. I mean the fact that the family never interacts with anyone else but the daughter is giving birth in the first few chapters… That just reeks of some sort of incestuous abuse, though no one outright claims it.

I’ll hand it to the author because the actual writing and storytelling are extremely well done. The actual plot and the way things down in the second half of the novel… I just… NO. This book was part of Amazon’s World Reading Day freebies, so I grabbed it with a bunch of others. I needed a break from books that were outright romantic, so I guess this was certainly a detour… *Gagging*

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

17. TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

Lara Jean enters into a fake relationship with popular boy Peter after her secret love letters get released and her older sister’s ex-boyfriend realizes she likes him.

  • Author: Jenny Han
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: YA Romance
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Okay, this book is cute. The Netflix trailer popped up on my Youtube feed one day, and I’m obviously 100% in support of whatever an Asian-American is a part of, even if it turns out to be silly or crappy. The trailer looked adorable, and I saw it was a novel, so I downloaded it instantly even though I haven’t really indulged in this specific genre since I was its target audience.

It’s obviously a sweet, YA romance type novel, and it plays into that genre masterfully. I know I’m getting older when I read some of the thoughts of Lara Jean and think, “Oh, honey, you’re definitely going to change your opinion on that in a few years.” I like that the narration has all these little sidenotes that aren’t really related to the plot, but they’re fun anecdotes to read anyway.

I’m also glad I never read this as an actual teenager because a lot of Lara Jeans’ thoughts and plans mirror my own way too closely that I’d probably be even moonier and lost in fantasy than I already was. I mean right down to having a crush on your fake boyfriend… RIP my 12-year-old heart.

*Side note: The movie is cute too if you live under a rock and haven’t seen it!

16. Tango Lessons

How the rigid rules and structure of theNYC tango scene help Meghan Flaherty heal from past trauma.

  • Author: Meghan Flaherty
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Memoir
  • Location: NYC, NY
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this! I don’t do a lot of memoirs, especially of people I’ve never heard of, but I just loved the way she intertwined tango into her personal narrative, and her writing was beautiful.

book challenge

15. Pachinko

Pachinko is a family epic that follows the story of a Korean immigrant family in Japan from the early 1900s through 1980s, mostly centered around the steadfast Sunja.

  • Author: Min Jin Lee
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Historical Fiction
  • Location: Korea and Japan
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Ughhhh, I loved like 3/4 of this book. I loved the main character, and I wish they had stuck more with her rather than dilute the narrative. I particularly loved reading about a topic we don’t really get much — the Korean experience in Japan during the 20th century. I’ve always known Koreans and Japanese people have generations of bad blood between them, even though things have cooled in today’s era, but this just describes another layer to that animosity while also making me cry.

For me, though, it fell apart a lot in the last third or quarter, and I remember listening to it thinking, “What the hell?” Some of the latter parts were so unnecessary to the plot, I’m still not sure what the author was trying to do.

Also, I’m sorry, the oldest son was a prideful dumbass.

book challenge

14. The Hating Game

When two rival assistants to co-CEOs of a merged publishing company are up for the same promotion, they learn there’s a fine line between love nad hate.

  • Author: Sally Thorne
  • How I Read: Physical Book
  • Category: Romantic Comedy
  • Location: A City
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Okay, this book is silly, sexy, and fun, and if you go in expecting that, you won’t be disappointed. If you go in expecting something different, you will. I listened to it while I was hiking Bonghwasan by myself and wound up elongating my hike to like 6 hours as I kept listening.

I like the author’s ability to develop chemistry even if everything else about the book is beyond ridiculous. Also, yes, I wanted to punch the main character every time she brought up how tiny and petite and little she was.

Side note: If you’re a fan of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” then tell me you’re not picturing Rebecca and Nathaniel!

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13. Close Enough to Touch

What happens when you’ve been allergic to human skin your whole life and are forced to venture out into the world.

  • Author: Colleen Oakley
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Romantic Comedy
  • Location: A Random Small Town
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

This book was pretty darn cute! Honestly, I feel like the allergy to skin is such a metaphor for how a lot of us are in today’s age. We kind of hide ourselves away and avoid human contact as much as possible. Like, so many people hate talking on the phone, and we laugh about it, but it’s actually pretty sad. Anyway, it was a cute, very PG-rated love story that made me smile at the end.

book challenge

12. I am Malala

Malala recounts her life before and after she was shot in the face by the Taliban

  • Author: Malala Yousafzai
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Memoir
  • Location: Mainly Swat, Pakistan
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I teared up. A lot. If I had been listening in my apartment and not in public, I probably would have started crying. There’s just so much to be heartbroken over. On one level, I cry for Swat, a place so beautiful, the queen of England once called it the Switzerland of the East.

On another level, I cry for Malala, the young woman, who has to live far from her home and her friends and her life. I felt a tinge of sadness when my parents sold my childhood home, and we only moved 30-minutes away. I can’t imagine what it would have felt like to know you could never go back out of fear of death.

It’s just… What a story and what a life. I know she’s in college now, and I’m excited to see how she leads our generation when she graduates. I looked up that she recently was able to return to Pakistan for a visit, and I teared up reading about it.

11. A Fighting Chance

Elizabeth Warren traces her life from a young girl in Oklahoma to becoming a Massachusetts senator.

  • Author: Elizabeth Warren
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Political Memoir
  • Location: Oklahoma, Massachusetts, DC
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I fully recognize this is a political memoir — of course, its main objective is to make Warren look good. And you should know I’ve been a fan since she asked Republican senators: “Do you have any idea what year it is? Did you fall down, hit your head, and think you woke up in the 1950s? or the 1890s? Should we call for a doctor?”

Anyhow, this book is incredible, and there’s a raw authenticity in Warren that we just don’t see in politicians. I love the Hilz, and maybe when I read What Happened, I’ll see it as well, but this is the kind of something people wanted from her and didn’t quite get. I honestly get the sense Warren genuinely cares a LOT about average American people and is furious over the way big banks managed to steal millions from them leading up to and even after the 2008 crash. She never had her mind on politics until it became obvious she needed to run. I loved hearing her POV on the money and tax law, something that goes over my head, and her no-nonsense take on where she got to today.

At the end of the day, whether you love her or think she’s Democratic dirt, this is a story of a woman who went from being a married college dropout with 2 kids to becoming a Harvard law professor, a significant government consultant on bankruptcy and commercial law, and now one of the most powerful and recognizable senators in the country. Like, DAMN.

Also, her pups, especially Otis, make me want to hop on a plane and go snuggle my dog for a week straight.

book challenge

10. Left Right Game

A user uploads emails he’s received from his missing friend, Alice Sharma, who has gone to Arizona to play the Left/Right game with seasoned pro, Robert J. Guthard.

  • Author: u/ Neon Tempo
  • How I Read: On Reddit
  • Category: Mystery
  • Location: Arizona

THOUGHTS

u/NeonTempo posted this in the in the r/NoSleep subreddit, and damn is it good. Autumn sent it to me to read and asked me what I thought. I read it in a day. It’s just super well written, well constructed, and I got a little scared while reading it.

I still don’t even quite understand what I read, so I think I’ll go back through another day and read it more slowly. The ending wasn’t my favorite, but, as Autumn said when we talked about it, I don’t really know how is it could have ended well.

book challenge

9. Astonish Me

What happens when your past romance with a famous Soviet ballerina comes back to haunts you when your son shows a talent for ballet and admiration your past lover.

  • Author: Maggie Shipstead
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Fiction
  • Location: California
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Ummmm….. I don’t know how I feel about this book. I listened to it in less than a day, starting it on my way home from work on a Friday and listening to it all Saturday. The author is definitely an excellent storyteller, but the story is… something.

First of all, I felt like I was constantly waiting for some big emotional climax and one never came. For all the big revelations, affairs, and drama in this book, everyone seemed weirdly calm. I also don’t particularly remember liking a single character or remotely empathizing with any of their decisions or actions. The ending is… it’s something.

Oh, and for those of you wondering, considering the book summary on Amazon says “passionate love affair,” there is a significant lack of passion in any of the damn scenes.

book challenge

8. Holy Cow! India

An Aussie moves to India indefinitely and winds up on a spiritual adventure around the country.

  • Author: Sarah Macdonald
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Travel Memoir
  • Location: All Over India
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

My friend, Sher, recommended this book to me because we’re both kind of dying to visit India. I found it to be pretty hilarious! While All Over the Place is more about the person with travel as a kind of metaphor, this is pretty much all about India’s religions with a bit of a personal touch.

Sarah is very much jaded after her first, fairly disastrous, backpacking trip through India long ago, so it adds a funny sarcasm to her tale. I also just enjoy all the different places she went. Some of them are areas I don’t think I’d ever make the time to go, so I like hearing about her experience filled with its own skepticism and respect.

book challenge

7. All Over the Place

A memoir from a unlikely successful travel blogger.

  • Author: Geraldine DeRuiter
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: Travel Memoir
  • Location: All Over the World
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Consider me a terrible travel blogger because I can’t believe I only knew about Geraldine after her viral post making Mario Batali’s “apology” cinnamon rolls. I followed her on Twitter immediately and spent a few months enjoying her tweets before realizing she’d written a whole damn book. And not just any book but a book about travel! I read the samples on Amazon and downloaded it within a span of 30-minutes.

It’s such a fun and heartful memoir, and Geraldine’s writing makes me realize how much I need to work on narrative storytelling again. I love blog writing, but it’s definitely not the same thing! The book also quickly becomes a lot more than just a destination hop through her life, but it’s more about her journey in the last few years, which makes it well worth the read even if you have no desire to leave your town. Her relationship with her husband is sweet and enviable to anyone who’s single, and her mother is a riot. Not to spoil anything, but I specifically love the way, with who, and where she ended the book. It felt full circle and just, I dunno, nice.

Lost Wife - Alyson Richman

6. The Lost Wife

Lenka and Yosef are a young Jewish couple that has just begun falling in love when they’re torn apart by the Nazi Occupation.

  • Author: Alyson Richman
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Historical Fiction
  • Location: Prague, Czech Republic
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Oh mannnnnn, I am such a hopeless romantic. Every time I think I’ve grown out of it, I read a book like The Lost Wife, and I’m a sap all over again. Give me first love, some sort of war, and a nice description of the handsome fella, and I’m putty in the author’s hand.

The book starts at the end with the Yosef and Lenka seeing each other at their grandchildren’s’ wedding over sixty years after they’d been separated. It’s only then that they realize the other has survived the war. It then details their lives, how they met, and how they survived their own traumatic events to go on to live their lives until that moment. Just tear out my heart now.

book challenge

5. Sweetbitter

Life in a fancy NYC kitchen in the early 2000s as told through the naive eyes of Tess.

  • Author: Stephanie Danler
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Fiction
  • Location: NYC, NY
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

I really wish someone would read this so I could discuss it! I can’t make up my how I feel about it. On the one hand, I found a lot of Danler’s prose really lovely in this dreamy/foggy way, kind of how I’d imagine working in NYC on a particularly humid summer day would feel. On the other hand, sometimes her prose felt really pretentious, like the kind of sentences I used to try to string together for creative writing classes.

I didn’t dislike Tess, the main character. I think I would have liked her more at 20 than now at 25, but I get where she’s coming from. That feeling of having no sense of direction basically describes the first half of my 20s.

I’m disappointed by how little we actually got to know Simone and Jake. I also wish she’d spent more time exploring Tess and Simone’s relationship over Tess and Jake’s. Tess and Jake are pretty run of the mill – the meaner he is, the more she wants him. Tess and Simone were so interesting because it showcases the rise and fall of idolizing your mentor and realizing they’re just human beings. Danler could have explored that so much!

The plot is also pretty thin. I think the author wanted to write about her experience in the NYC restaurant industry and needed the plot to wrap it around, so she used this not very fleshed out one. There are a lot of other characters named frequently, and I can’t even remember most of them besides Howard, the manager.

4. Living History

Written in 2003, this memoir explores Hillary Clinton’s life from childhood up til her run in the NY senate race.

  • Author: Hillary Clinton
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Political Memoir
  • Location: All Over the US
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

If Hillary Clinton had a trilogy of autobiographies, this would be the first. It came out when she became a senator for New York and goes into her life until that point. Really it goes even further back, talking about her mother’s struggles and triumphs before she was even born. I’m fully aware the book basically works as a tool in Clinton’s overall public persona, and she was still an active political figure when it was published. It’s certainly not the juicy tell-all you know we’d all love, but I still found it both inspiring and insightful.

This was also the first time I read a political biography! I don’t really read biographies, autobiographies, or memoirs, but I’m starting to enjoy them more and more.

book challenge

3. Something About Us

A friends to lovers story! Gayoung and Woojin have always been close friends but when Woojin comes back from his military service and starts at Gayoung’s university, they have to decide if there’s something more…

  • Author: Lee Yunji
  • How I Read: Webtoon
  • Category: Romantic Comedy
  • Location: Seoul, South Korea
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

This is only the second time I’ve read through a webtoon, and I really enjoyed it. It’s not a particularly new or groundbreaking concept, but the characters were fun and likable. I only heard about it because I was on Dramabeans to scope out any new K-dramas, and there was an announcement they were turning this into drama. I love Cheese in the Trap, and people said these were similar, so I was a pretty easy sell!

While most of CitT is free on Naver’s Webtoon, Lenzhin Comics is paid. A lot of the chapters were free when I read it, and then I bought the rest. I do have some issues with the ending. It definitely sped things up to come to a conclusion, and we don’t really tie up all the loose strings of other characters.

2. The Constant Princess

What if Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur had actually been in love?

  • Author: Philippa Gregory
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Historical Fiction
  • Location: England, 1500s
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

It’s not my favorite Philippa Gregory book, but it’s certainly not my least favorite Gregory book. Her debut novel, Wideacre, is when I discovered what “incest” was, and boy was that not a pleasant realization. This book is about Katherine of Aragon. Most of history knows her as the scorned first wife of that King Henry VIII and mother to Mary, Bloody Mary (an unfair nickname). It’s nice to see her as the heroine of her own story instead of the victim of someone else’s.

The premise is all around her and her first husband, Arthur, really being in love and making plans for her to trick King Henry VIII into marrying her so they can fulfill their wishes for the British kingdom. I like the idea of her having a guy who really loved her, but it’s definitely wishful thinking on Gregory’s part according to all historical records. It also kind of drags a lot in certain parts and skips whole years in other parts, so the rhythm was a bit off for me.

For the record, my favorite Gregory book of the ones I’ve read is definitely The Queen’s Fool, and it’s probably because the main character was completely fictional!

book challenge

1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

In the year following 9/11, young Oskar is still coping with his father’s death in the terrorist attacks while finding purpose in what he thinks is his dad’s last treasure hunt for him.

  • Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Romantic Comedy
  • Location: NYC, NY
  • Shop Local // Buy on Amazon

THOUGHTS

Overall I really liked this novel! I thought it kind of dragged in some parts, and I found myself speeding up through the middle of the book when he’s trying to find all the people with the last name “Black.” It’s basically about a young boy coping with the loss of his father on 9/11 and learning to let go. He’s not my favorite kid narrator, but I didn’t think he was as annoying as other kid narrators I’ve read or seen on television.

And that’s everything I read in 2018!

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