Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My 2019 Challenge Wrap-Up!

I know you're all dying to know how I did on my challenges this year, so without further ado...πŸ˜‰

The Audiobook Challenge was hosted by Hot Listens & Caffeinated Reviewer. I challenged myself to listen to 30 or more books, which I was able to accomplish! In fact, as of today, I listened to 43 audiobooks in 2019! That's great for me, since I wasn't always a fan of format. I've discovered a lot of really great narrators, and now sometimes search for books based on who reads them (looking at you Steve West, Shane East, Andi Arndt, and Fiona Hardingham).

The 2019 Discussion Challenge was hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight. I challenged myself to create anywhere between 11-20 discussion posts, which I was not able to do this year. Instead of being a Creative Conversationalist, I was more of a Discussion Dabbler, and will be ending 2019 with 5. 
My Goodreads Reading Challenge was both a success and a failure. I really tried to push myself this year, and thought 500 books might be doable based on how many comic and children's books I read (yes, I always count those towards my goal). Alas, I still managed to read 472, and I am totally fine with that. I hate that Goodreads doesn't count it as "completed," because we should always celebrate the number of books read. 
  • I read 63,092 pages across 472 books
  • Shortest book (12 pages): Mr. Snail's Counting Trails by Stuart Lynch
  • Longest book (699 pages): A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3) by Sarah J. Maas
  • Average length: 133 pages
  • My average rating for 2019: 3.8
  • My first review of the year: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (★★☆☆☆)
  • My last review of the year: Spider-Man 2099 #1 by Nick Spencer, Viktor Bogdanovic, Jose Carlos Silva (★★☆☆☆)

Beat the Backlist 2019 was the only other challenge I participated in this year, which was hosted by Novel Knight. I challenged myself to read 100 books that were published in or 2018 or earlier, and managed to read 105! There are so many books out there, and I love that this challenge encourages me to look at the books I already own, instead of focusing on everything that's being released. 

How did you do on your 2019 challenges?

Monday, December 30, 2019

DNF&Y [24]

DNF&Y is used to explain why I gave up on certain books, and what about them just didn't work for me. What I disliked about a book might be something you love, so it helps to share your thoughts even when they're negative! If you would like additional information, please click on the DNF&Y tab at the top. If you want to join, you can link up at the bottom!

Coral by Sara Ella
Synopsis (via Goodreads): There is more than one way to drown.

Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. Worse yet, she fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease, said to be carried by humans—emotions. Can she face the darkness long enough to surface in the light?

Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at Fathoms—a new group therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?

Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?

When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive, and Coral might even catch a prince in the process. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?

Taking a new twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved—yet tragic—fairy tale,
Coral explores mental health from multiple perspectives, questioning what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost. *I originally reviewed this book on December 12, 2019.

DNF at 10% 

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

"The colors made sounds and the sounds created colors." 

I had a really hard time with Coral from the start. I love losing myself in new worlds, but everything about this book was perplexing. I felt like this story followed a different set of rules, but had no idea what they were. Coral can see sounds and hear colors (synesthesia, I think), but her explanations only furthered my confusion. She said certain colors were loud, but never seemed overwhelmed by them. How is that possible? She's surrounded by color, so wouldn't everything make noise? Like, all the time? Did she not suffer from sensory overload?

"The bedclothes were ruffled and her pillow slept in the sand."

How?? She's underwater, she has a tail, so wouldn't her clothing just be wet all the time? Also, how does one wear bedclothes over fins and whatnot? Was it just a t-shirt, or...?? How do they make clothes underwater? What are they made of? I needed more details! 

"Jordan rolled her eyes, crossed to the heavy chamber door carved from old ship wood, and shut it."

Wouldn't the wood deteriorate underwater over time? How did they salvage the material for a door? When I read this sentence, I immediately pictured rotting wood that was soft and mushy. 

"Easy as a kelp pie.”

"Coral’s mouth bowed and her insides turned to jellyfish. She didn’t want Jordan to go, despite how she tended to get under Coral’s scales more often than not."

They don't associate with humans, so why did they have pie specifically? I know it might be nitpicking at this point, but I felt like the author was trying too hard to make correlations between her world and common phrases we use today, which made the story ring false. Her insides turned to jellyfish?? I wish the author had created a language that had terms specific to her characters and the world she created. 

I really wanted to see how Coral used merpeople to discuss mental health, but I barely made it through two of the three perspectives. I gave up when Merrick's chapter started, so I can't really comment on his portion of the story. However, I can comment on how Brooke was a very antagonistic and vexing character. She was in a treatment program, but doesn't share why or how she got there. I'm sure this was done to add suspense to her story, but it made her unlikable and unrelatable. She was callous and cruel to a child because she felt bad, and I thought her actions were that of a spoiled brat, and not someone suffering from a mental health issue. We don't know anything about her, so it was hard to sympathize with her feelings and actions.

Side note: I'm not saying Brooke should be likable or friendly, but the lack of information made it hard to understand her. I don't suffer from mental health issues, so I cannot comment on how people with them should be portrayed, but I do know how her character came across and can share those feelings with you.

Coral's community deals with something called "the Disease" that impacts a mermaid's emotional state, and they are shamed for experiencing anything other than cool disinterest. It really bothered me that only merwomen suffered from this "affliction," because it made it seem like mermen couldn't be emotional or depressed. Anyone suffering from "the Disease" was written off and ignored, and I haaated that aspect of this book. 

Needless to say, this book wasn't a good fit. I was confused, frustrated, and disinterested in the overall story, which was not a good combination for enjoyable reading. I liked the concept, and I can appreciate what the author was trying to do, but it really missed the mark for me. (★★☆☆☆)


Lost Girl: A Shelby Day Novel 
by Holly Kammier
Expected publication: January 5th 2020


As her search draws closer to uncovering the twisted truth, she begins receiving ominous warnings to stay quiet and drop the story. The young journalist is in danger. Her cameraman and best friend, a person with his own secret past, says he wants to protect her. But Shelby is headstrong and dodging anything that could lead to love. She can't allow anyone to distract her as she fights for the two women who deserve justice.

She never expects along the way she'll have to stop and save herself.

Tick tock… If Shelby doesn't solve the crime soon, she'll become the killer's next v

DNF at 12%

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Lost Girl: A Shelby Day Novel made me stabby. You know the people in horror movies that repeatedly make bad decisions? The people you just know are going to die? That's Shelby. She makes bad decision after bad decision, and her reasonings were ridiculous. If someone leaves a threatening note on your door after you "investigate" a murder, you flarking tell people about it! 

"Jack didn’t need to know about the note. I wasn’t going to be scared into losing my lead story because of some creep, and I definitely didn’t need anyone’s protection. I could take care of myself just fine."

I'm also not sure why someone would leave her a vaguely threatening note for simply doing her job. Other news stations also reported on what happened, so Shelby being singled out didn't make sense. She wasn't a detective looking for clues, or a person that had access to the bodies. She was an investigative journalist that reported her findings based on interviews and some sleuthing. Why was she targetted??

"Fear was a waste of time."

No it's not! Fear is healthy. Fear is normal. Fear will likely keep you alive, because you're less inclined to do something stupid.

"...I typed in my phone and posted updates on Twitter and Instagram about our exclusive interview with Melissa Rossi’s ex-boyfriend."

I have no idea how investigative journaling works, but wouldn't you want to keep your "exclusive" interviews under wraps until they aired? Anything could happen... they could cancel the segment, or decide to go in a different direction, etc. Again, I have no idea how this works, but it seems like blasting it on social media immediately after the interview is unprofessional and has the potential to hurt the story itself. 

Shelby is also a woman-hating, self-destructive psycho. She's always working, so she can "be the best" and get out of the town she's in. She wants to go home, make her dad proud, yada yada. I didn't read enough to understand what her reasons were. However, I was there for her belittling, hurtful comments, and her need to be seen by everyone. She wants to work hard so she can be on top, but gets frustrated when someone else does the same.

Example 1: "It was cheating. But Lily didn’t care about that, she was determined to make it to a big market faster than any of us. Her fake Colgate smile and relentless drive exacerbated my competitive side and worked my last nerve."

Example 2: "I envied Kaya’s carefree spirit. She wasn’t like the rest of us. She’d grown up in this charming small town with her loving, all-American, intact family. Her brother and sister had probably come with her parents to cheer her on when she played high school softball. I could imagine Kaya taking annual summer camping trips with her family and gathering in the living room each Christmas to eat popcorn and watch their favorite old movies. Her life seemed so intoxicatingly normal."

I just love how she tried to excuse her behavior. 

"Covering those gruesome murders followed by a threatening note on my door and then a suspicious call to my work, had left me feeling cornered and vulnerable, and the alcohol wasn’t helping. The toxic combination made me mean."

She likes Jack, Jack likes her, but she refuses to acknowledge their shared feelings. She thinks emotions and a relationship will get in the way of her success, so she keeps him at a distance. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean she's mature about it. She gets jealous when other girls talk to him, and then tries to make herself feel better by making him jealous?? What is happening?? Is this high school? 

More of Shelby being a dumbass: "In other breaking news, Melissa Rossi’s supposed best friend had called the station this afternoon. Despite any concerns regarding my personal safety, I was going to get another exclusive, my third in a row, a major coup in the news business."

Why is Shelby getting these interviews? What has she done to earn people's respect? Make out with a producer at a bar? Badger a police officer into commenting on camera? Stalk the ex-boyfriend of a victim for an interview? Secretly hate and publicly belittle her coworkers? 

"Having said my own sloppy goodbyes and cursing out Jack under my breath for taking off with Kaya, I stumbled across Main Street feeling completely paranoid."

"He was the toughest guy I knew. The kind of man who made you feel safe at night. 'You’re worth the wait.' I held his gaze with a loopy grin as I sipped my wine. With Jack off doing who knew what with Kaya, I had no intention of going home alone."

Jack offered to walk Kaya home since it was late, dark, and two girls had recently been murdered. Also, I thought she wasn't afraid? What happened to "fear is a waste of time"? She talks big about being able to take care of herself, and then she's meeting a guy so she can feel safe (with the added bonus of potential revenge-sex). Revenge for what? Her friend Jack walking a coworker home? 

I'm getting worked up just writing this review! Shelby is a horrible person and an unrelatable character. Her actions are ridiculous and vindictive, and she keeps really important and relevant information to herself. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if Jack was the murderer. Everything else has been bananas so far, so that's my guess. Sorry it that spoils something for you, but I honestly have no idea who the killer is. (★★☆☆☆)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Sunday Post [35]

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly at the Caffeinated Reviewer! It's an opportunity to share news, post a recap for the previous week, showcase books, and highlight what's planned for the week ahead.


Today has been bananas, friends. We started the morning with a stray dog in our yard, and several missing shoes. My neighbor texted me a picture of one such shoe and asked if the dog was ours (since he'd been over there too). I replied that while the shoe was in fact one of ours, the dog wasn't. We spent the next several hours trying to locate the dog's owner, and discovered it was recently adopted and discarded (people suck). The issue has been resolved (for now), but I'm worried about this sweet puppy. Fingers crossed everything works out for him! He was really friendly and desperately wanted to be let inside the house (my dogs were not okay with this option, so we had to deny him entry). 

After all of that hooey, we went to my parents house for lunch and presents! It was the first day we could all get together over the holidays (work schedules). My mom has been really great about making vegan-friendly meals, or at least vegan-versions of what they're having. It's not always perfect, but I love that she tries. We eat whatever she makes regardless, because she works hard to make sure everyone is happy. (I think she gets confused with the dairy, because she'll be really proud of her potatoes having soy milk, but then she'll use a ton of regular butter, haha. It's the thought that counts!) My in-laws do the same thing. 😁

I was a little worried about presents, because my mom usually asks me what the kiddos want, and this year she didn't. I had no idea what we'd be enduring in the coming weeks. It was surprisingly mild, which I am eternally grateful for. The girls received little vanity tables, and while the assembly was frustrating, it was mostly manageable. Stickers for days... It went with the make-up and the other sparkly gifts they were given. Our son was gifted a scooter, some sort of racetrack, and something else that was LEGO-like. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but I'm too stuffed to think clearly, and I spent hours assembling various toys. Oh! A tunnel thing that the kids can crawl through. It popped open on its own, so the parent involvement was minimal. 

I am exhausted! I feel like we've been doing more now that my son's on break, when we should be doing less. I want to sleep in, relax, READ. Nope. I can't remember the last time I slept past 7 AM. #momlife

Previous week on the blog:

Tuesday: Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn (★★★★☆)
Thursday: NA
Friday: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (★★★⋆☆)

What I'm currently reading: 

Wolf Gone Wild (Stay A Spell, #1) by Juliette Cross
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

What I plan on reading next: 

Lucky Caller by Emma Mills
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz

What I'm watching: 

Jacob and I binge-watched the first season of Making It with Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman (it expires Wednesday on Hulu, so watch it sooner rather than later πŸ˜‰), and loved it! We really enjoyed watching people create unique works of art, and thought the Makers themselves were some of the nicest people. The judges... ugh. I've already ranted about them on Twitter, so I won't subject you to another one on here. We started the second season last night, and I'm sure we'll finish it soon! Yay! Crafty people!

Challenge updates:

Audiobook Challenge: πŸ—Ή
Beat the Backlist Challenge: πŸ—Ή
Discussion Challenge: 5 / 11-20 πŸ—·
Goodreads Challenge: 467 / 500 πŸ—·

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Mini Reviews [38]

X-Force #1 by Benjamin Percy, 
Dustin Weaver & Joshua Cassara (Illustrators)
Synopsis (via Goodreads): THE HIGH PRICE OF A NEW DAWN! X-Force is the CIA of the mutant world—one half intelligence branch, one half special ops. Beast, Jean Grey and Sage on one side, Wolverine, Kid Omega and Domino on the other.

I really didn't like X-Force. The entire story felt disjointed and bounced from one character to the next without much preamble (and there are a lot of characters in this one). It's also very violent and gory, which isn't my cup of tea. I think the author killed someone for the shock value, and then twisted their death so that it somewhat impacted the rest of the story.

This person! I'm having a hard time believing everything went down the way it did. Running away? Seemingly scared to death? An island full of mutants is overwhelmed by a handful of nobodies? Ugh. I'm sorry, but it simply wasn't plausible. Magneto? Apocalypse? Any of the psychics? The island? No one was able to glimpse or prevent the outcome? (My husband is telling me this is normal for the X-Force comics, and that nobody stays dead for long.)

When you kill a popular character, people are going to want to know why, so you sell more comics. I'm too frustrated with this issue as a whole to even consider continuing the series. If I wouldn't have felt ridiculous, I would have DNFd it after the first few pages. Additionally, the artwork felt sloppy and didn't compliment the story being told. (★★☆☆☆)

Family Tree #1 by Jeff Lemire, Phil Hester,
Eric Gapstur, Ryan Cody (Illustrators)
Synopsis (via Goodreads): When an eight-year-old girl literally begins to transform into a tree, her single mom, troubled brother, and possibly insane grandfather embark on a bizarre and heart-wrenching odyssey across the back roads of America in a desperate search for a way to cure her horrifying transformation before it’s too late. But the farther they get from home, the more forces threaten to tear the family apart as fanatical cults, mercenaries, and tabloid Paparazzi close in, determined to destroy the girl—or use her for their own ends.

A new genre-defying series written by New York Times bestselling author JEFF LEMIRE (GIDEON FALLS, ASCENDER) and illustrated by acclaimed artist PHIL HESTER (Shipwreck, Green Arrow), FAMILY TREE combines mystery, action, and horror into an epic story about the lengths a mother will go to in order to keep her children safe.

Family Tree was trippy in the best possible way! Jeff Lemire is an astonishing writer, and this story is incredibly unique. What would you do if your child started transforming into a tree?? I would freak the fuck out! I'm not sure how her mom stayed so calm and clear-headed, and surprised myself by laughing when her brother made a joke (he's a sarcastic teenager). It was definitely not the time or place for humor, which made it even more hilarious.

I also really liked the setup! We get to see a normal day play out before the world falls apart, which provided a nice before-and-after contrast. I honestly have no idea what's going on (was that Lumberjack Santa?), only that I need to know more! The family was dysfunctional but seemed solid, and I particularly loved everything that happened with the son at school -- hah! It felt authentic and totally believable, which is saying something since the girl is turning into a tree. (★★★★☆)

Spider-Man & Venom: Double Trouble #1
by Mariko Tamaki, Gurihiru (Illustrator)
Synopsis (via Goodreads): You’ve seen ‘em duke it out in the Marvel Universe for years, but prepare to see Spidey and Venom as you never have before: as begrudging… buddies? It’s fun of the freaky variety this time around, as an unexpected mind-swap sets Spidey and Venom in each other’s bodies! But WHO swapped them, and why?! From Mariko Tamaki and Gurihiru comes an all-new take on your favorite arch-Frienemies in the MU – and now they’ve gotta work together to set things right!


Spider-Man & Venom: Double Trouble was incredibly childish and not at all what I was expecting. It's definitely a series to read with your children, and I struggled to enjoy it on my own. I think my son would've liked it, but that would require me reading it a second time, which I'm not inclined to do. On a more positive note, the artwork was phenomenal and really captured the essence of the story. I think if I had been better prepared, I would've liked this one more. (★★★☆☆)

Friday, December 27, 2019

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Synopsis (via Goodreads): All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.


I hesitated before starting Sorcery of Thorns, because I had such neutral feelings about the author's first book (An Enchantment of Ravens). The story was enjoyable, but "didn't wow me like I thought it would." I had no such problems with Sorcery of Thorns, and really liked the world Rogerson created. It was a world that revolved around sentient books and libraries with secret passageways, sorcery and demons, and a girl that defied the odds to save the day (she just had to save herself many, many times before that).

Let's start with my main quibble: We only see two sorcerers. Nathanial is the main sorcerer in this story along with his demon, Silas. There's another sorcerer and his demon, although their presence is more malicious and villainy. Where was everyone else? They had a council or something, right? Why didn't they play a larger role within the story? The world is literally falling apart, and there is only one sorcerer trying to save the day? If other people had magical powers and demons, they should have been front-and-center trying to fight back the baddies. Their absence was a gaping hole in the story that I couldn't ignore. Especially when the people living in Nathaniel's neighbored were all sorcerers.

Moving on! I love the cover for this book! I'm not sure why it's called Sorcery of Thorns, because the only Thorn we see is Nathaniel, and he isn't the main character. Yes, he's an essential element of the story, but he's not always around. I guess we learn a lot about his family's history, but it seems weird that his name is predominately featured while Elisabeth is neglected.

Elisabeth is constantly having to save herself from this or that situation. She eludes an enchantment, gets blamed for something she didn't do, survives confinement, escapes imprisonment, saves a sorcerer, befriends a demon, fights fiends, pretends to be bespelled, challenges her beliefs and teachings, and cleverly solves the mysteries surrounding the attacks on the libraries. Nathaniel who? She does have help from friends, but essentially saves the day all on her own (although I wish she'd dealt with more inner conflict and turmoil). Everyone else is either too far away, too incapacitated, or too bound to something else to offer much assistance.

I really liked Nathaniel and his relationship with Silas, and I think this book would have benefited from having alternating POVs. It would have been interesting too see this story through Nathaniel's perspective, since he kept himself at a distance (emotionally and physically) whenever Elisabeth was around (slow-almost-nonexistent-burn romance). I think seeing inside of his head would have brought more clarity to the story, and allowed us to view the happenings from a sorcerer's perspective.

I also wish the bad guy had been more nefarious, but he was just mildly unsettling. His demon was more calculating and disturbing, and I would've liked to see her go up against Silas. I felt like a lot of details were glossed or skipped over (like how someone was captured, or how they got from here to there), and things would just progress. I wanted to know what happened in those gaps of time. The ending leaves you with a big, "WHAT HAPPENED?"

I do think I enjoyed this one more because I listened to the audiobook. I don't think I would have had the patience for it otherwise. Having a due date also helped (borrowed from the library). The narrator was fantastic! I feel like this one was a solid 3.5 stars, but will round up until Goodreads develops a half-star rating.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

My Weekly Pull [102] & Can't Wait Wednesday [72]

My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday to show which comics I had pulled for me that week! If you're into comics, or you're looking to start, please join me! If you decide to do your own post, there's a link-up at the bottom. I would love to stop by and check it out!

Marked #3 by David Hine, Brian Haberlin, Geirrod Van Dyke

Jacob's comics for the week!
Incoming #1 by Various Artists & Illustrators, Sanford Greene (cover)
Venom #21 by Donny Cates, Iban Coello, Clayton Crain

Unsurprisingly, our pull list is light this week! One comic for me, two for Jacob, and one calendar. Marked is a series I'm still unsure about... the concept is interesting, but the characters are frustrating and underdeveloped. I don't know enough to really care about what happens them. We'll see how this third issue plays out!

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, that highlights upcoming releases that we're anticipating and excited to read. It's a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday that was hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

The Will and the Wilds
by Charlie N. Holmburg
Expected publication: January 21st 2020
Synopsis (via Goodreads): A spellbinding story of truce and trickery from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician series.

Enna knows to fear the mystings that roam the wildwood near her home. When one tries to kill her to obtain an enchanted stone, Enna takes a huge risk: fighting back with a mysting of her own.

Maekallus’s help isn’t free. His price? A kiss. One with the power to steal her soul. But their deal leaves Maekallus bound to the mortal realm, which begins eating him alive. Only Enna’s kiss, given willingly, can save him from immediate destruction. It’s a temporary salvation for Maekallus and a lingering doom for Enna. Part of her soul now burns bright inside Maekallus, making him feel for the first time.

Enna shares Maekallus’s suffering, but her small sacrifice won’t last long. If she and Maekallus can’t break the spell binding him to the mortal realm, Maekallus will be consumed completely—and Enna’s soul with him.

*Share your My Weekly Pull post! Please leave the direct link to your My Weekly Pull post and not just your blog's URL. Thank you for participating and happy reading!

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts one woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy...

Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing beautiful custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Like the time she sat across from Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancΓ©e, and knew their upcoming marriage was doomed to fail. Weaving a secret word into their wedding program was a little unprofessional, but she was sure no one else would spot it. She hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid...

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out—before he leaves New York for good—how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline, a fractured friendship, and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other about their lives, work, and regrets, both try to ignore the fact that their unlikely connection is growing deeper. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late...


I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Love Lettering was my first Kate Clayborn book, but I will definitely be reading more! I really enjoyed the ebb and flow of this story, and thought Meg's hand-lettering was a unique skill and an interesting profession. I've never really thought about hand-lettered signs, or how certain scripts can convey a specific feeling, but Meg's talents allowed Clayborn to tell a story within a story. Meg sees the world through a colorful lens, which sometimes produced somewhat-tangible words, and each one was tied to an emotion. It was a lovely way to experience the world, and it translated well in this story.

My one quibble would be the chilliness of the slow burn romance (personal preference). I did like that their relationship was rooted in friendship first and foremost, but I went into this one thinking it would be on the steamier side. They're obviously attracted to each other, but neither of them act on it right away. I thought their relationship developed authentically, and appreciated how mature their conversations and interactions were. Meg mentioned being on her period, and I was shocked to see a woman's menstrual cycle so normalized in a contemporary romance. It was even better when Reid didn't immediately bolt or act awkward. He simply asked if she needed him to go to the store! What a gentleman.

I normally dislike it when one of the main characters withholds essential information or keeps secrets, but it weirdly didn't bother me in Love Lettering. Reid was honest to a fault, so his reluctance to share something meant he was deeply troubled by it. I never doubted his intentions, or thought he wasn't sharing for malicious reasons. He cared about Meg, and he wanted her to be happy. I was completely surprised by the twist at the end, but think it really rounded out the rest of the story. We get an explanation that didn't make me roll my eyes or groan in frustration, but appreciate the efforts both parties made to make it work. Meg trusted Reid, and her trust paid off.

Sibby (Meg's roommate and best friend) was incredibly annoying at first. I'm still not sure how I feel about their friendship, but can appreciate where the author left things. People do change and grow over time, and that does impact relationships and circumstances. I understood Sibby, even if I didn't agree with how she handled herself.

Overall, I thought Love Lettering was wonderfully witty and creative. I look forward to reading more books by this author, and will likely read this one again in the future.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Mini Reviews [37]

All About Allosaurus: A Funny Prehistoric Tale About
Friendship and Inclusion by Greg Gormley
Expected publication: February 18th 2020
Synopsis (via Goodreads): A fun story that introduces children to different dinosaurs, with a light message on inclusion and friendship.

Allosaurus is fed up. All anyone ever talks about is T. rex. T. rex this and T. rex that. Well he thinks it's his turn now—he's going to write a book all about him. Allosaurus sets to work, but soon everyone wants to be in his book. With a page for everyone, there might not be room for Allosaurus after all. And just what will happen when T. rex finds out she isn't included?

Beautifully illustrated, QEB’s Storytime series introduces young children to the pleasures of reading and sharing stories. Featuring charming animal and human characters, the books explore important social and emotional themes like friendship, gratitude, perseverance, and overcoming fears. A Next Steps page at the back provides guidance for parents and teachers.


I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

All About Allosaurus was not about "friendship, gratitude, perseverance, and overcoming fears." It was about manipulation, bullying, and self-pity. Allosaurus was jealous of T. rex's popularity, so he decided to write a book about himself. He kept bumping into other dinosaurs that wanted to be included in his book, and despite his initial protests of "It's all about Me!", Allosaurus caved as they cried and bullied their way onto his pages. After adding everyone else, Allosaurus said his book was finished and claimed there was nothing special about him (which is not how or why this story started), and the others had to convince him otherwise (ugh). The writing was choppy, the dialogue was confusing, and the story itself was very off-putting. I think this book sends the wrong message(s) to children, and I wouldn't recommend it.

Ultimate Trivia, Volume 1: 800 + Fun and
Challenging Trivia Questions by Donna Hoke
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Become a triumphant trivia boss.

If you want to impress people with your wide-ranging knowledge at the next game night, pick up Ultimate Trivia, Vol. 1. The 800-plus questions in this book are spread over amusing and diverse categories creating a wide and fun playing field for everyone.

Pass the time on a cross-country road trip with questions on literature and fine arts. Test your family’s historical knowledge at the next holiday gathering. Or belly up to the bar and engage in a Q&A about animals and nature. It doesn’t matter the setting—this trivia book is perfect.

Ultimate Trivia, Vol. 1 includes: A variety of formats—Try team vs. team in group play or go head-to-head with a friend to see who comes out as a trivia master. Checked and double-checked—All the information has been strenuously fact-checked to ensure everything is accurate and up to date. So many subjects—You name it, it’s probably covered: US and world history, pop culture and food and drink—it has it all.

Leave a lasting impact at the next trivia night with this brain-busting book.


I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

This trivia book was surprisingly easy, which was disappointing. I don't want the questions to be impossible, but I would like for them to be a little challenging. Most of the sections felt too simplistic, and some of the answers weren't very accurate. For example, one of the questions asked: "What is Lord Voldemort's real name?" The answer: Tom Riddle. I felt like Marvolo should have been included in the answer choice, since the middle name is necessary for the anagram. However, the other options were laughable (Tim Reed, Travis Rawlings, Trevor Rowling), so it didn't really matter. My husband had a lot of issues with the Animals and Nature section, but I don't remember anything specific. Sadly, this was not a "brain-busting" book.

Modern Vegan Baking: The Ultimate Resource for
Sweet and Savory Baked Goods by Gretchen Price
Synopsis (via Goodreads): The ultimate guide to real vegan baking―Modern Vegan Baking is your best resource for creative, substitution-free treats that are both savory and sweet.

With new ingredients like agave, arrowroot, and aquafaba, vegan baking is every bit as delicious and exciting as traditional baking. Mixing inventive ingredients and cutting-edge methods, professional vegan baker and blogger behind
Gretchen’s Vegan Bakery, Gretchen Price shows just how delicious substitution-free cooking can be. With 125 recipes, plus step-by-step tutorials, Modern Vegan Baking provides a variety of tried and tested recipes for anyone who enjoys vegan baking.

Modern Vegan Baking contains:

125 Vegan Baking Recipes for making both savory and sweet treats, including must-have classics and innovative creations
Easy-to-Follow Instructions for new vegan baking techniques and ingredients

Helpful Extras including a complete guide to vegan baking substitutions

Recipes in Modern Vegan Baking include: Triple Chocolate Glazed Donuts, Rosemary and Fig Focaccia, Lemon Lavender Shortbread, Pumpkin Pie with Oat Nut Crust, and much more!

Taste how much better baking without butter can be with these creative and dairy-free delicacies!


I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

This cookbook arrived just before the girl's birthday, so I decided to try two of the recipes for their cakes! The super-easy vanilla cake and bakery-style fudge icing recipes were both a success, and really complimented each other. The girls and our guests thoroughly enjoyed the cakes, which is saying something, since everyone is always hesitant to try our vegan versions of things. My one complaint would be an excess of fudge icing, but it's halfhearted. Can you really have too much chocolate? πŸ˜‰ I've attempted a few other recipes from this book, and it's definitely one I can see myself continuing to use in the future.