What to Read... and NOT to Read! This Year's Library List Run-Down So Far... Book Reviews in Miniature - Some Free On Kindle!

Already read this one?  Check out my September edition of What to Read / What Not To Read for 6 more reviews!  :)



Inspired by Little Gold Pixel, whose monthly "what I've been reading" book review posts I always enjoy, here's a summary of my reading this year so far... I love recommendations, so if you have something unforgettable for me, please mention it in the comments section!

A few caveats..  I was cleaning off my bookshelves knowing that a big move was coming up this summer, so a number of these are re-reads.  I also was clearing out my personal "classroom library collection" so I read a number of kids books as well, which are not included here.  I also didn't include books about puppies/dog training, which I will post soon separately. 

As for the rest, they're arranged below roughly in order of how much I liked them.  :)  A number are currently free on kindle, so keep an eye open for those!


When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
YA, Mystery, Time-Travel, Coming of Age
Read!  No matter your age!
This book should be read by every teen/preteen/tween on the planet, and by every adult who loved Madeleine L'Engle as a child.  A Wrinkle in Time features in the plot of the story itself, and this book carries the L'Engle mantle well.  (We miss you, Madeleine, rest in peace... oh geez, now I'm crying)  Suffice to say, it's a subtle time travel novel with such a good soul... easy and memorable read. 

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Classics, Mystery, Suspense, Romance
Read! 
This Victorian author is best known for his novel The Moonstone -- usually considered one of the first English-language detective novels -- and The Woman in White is written in a similarly creepy vein.  I bought this book in Spain years ago as a study abroad student, and enjoyed it then with a very uncritical eye.  Reading it again now, I was struck by the male/female stereotypes, entirely typical of the time, that are scattered throughout the book.  The author chose to narrate the book through different characters' eyes, one of them a strong woman character, and her strength is constantly described as "manly"... she is "steady as a man," "with a man's fortitude" etc.  She even decries that she is only "a weak woman" several times (and needless to say, the hero never considers her a possible love interest, falling in love with her wispy, fainting, more appropriately "delicate" sister instead).  However, having a strong woman character in the novel, and giving her voice as a narrator, were both undoubtedly progressive acts for a male author at the time.  This would be an awesome book to analyze for a college lit class, haha!  That aside, it is still a gripping and intricate suspense novel.  At the end, I swear you'll be like, "Sheesh, they should have just killed her for real..."  Come back and tell me if I'm wrong!

Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd Douglas
Romance, Bad-Boy-Makes-Good
Read (if you don't mind a bit of preachy)
This 1929 novel follows a rich, self-centered young man who tries to follow in the footsteps of the brilliant brain surgeon whose death he inadvertently caused... and then finds himself in a sticky situation when he falls in love with the man's widow.  An interesting philosophical system of secret acts of kindness ensuring a successful, happy life for the doer is expounded throughout... a sort of Christian-tinged karma.  It is an intriguing novel and a sweet love story.

Crazy Little Things by Tracy Brogan.  
Romance, Beach Fiction
Read (if you enjoy a fun beachy romance)
This is a lighthearted story about a divorcee with children (and a super quirky aunt) rediscovering love  -- witty, lively writing, with a beach background that makes for perfect on-location vacation read.. or if you didn't make it to the beach this year, and want to experience it second-hand, and sans sunscreen.  Entertaining and easy-breezy read.

Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker.  
Minimalism, Simplicity Living, Parenting
Read (if you have kids and/or interest in a simple / minimalist lifestyle)
Now, full disclosure, I do not have kids.  But my bestie, who shares my fascination with achieving a simple / minimalist lifestyle and who DOES have a kid, lent me this book.  Future in mind (my mom is going to be so excited when she reads this, and will probably try to hold me to this one sentence as a solemn vow), I enjoyed this exploration of how to balance children and modern life with simplicity and priority-based living.  This guy swears it is possible to live minimally, even with a houseful of bambinos, and he sure makes it seem possible!  Can't vouch for it myself personally yet, but you should definitely check this book out for lots of inspiration and good advice.


Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells. 
Sci-Fi, Adventure, Romance
Read! (unless you hate sci-fi)
Fluency is a surprisingly smart sci-fi novel centering around a linguist who has been hired by NASA to travel into space with a group of astronauts.  Their destination, an alien spacecraft that was seemingly abandoned in an astroid belt way back in the 1940s.  As a linguist, she has been brought along to learn from the artifacts that remain on the ship, Rosetta Stone style.  But is the alien ship truly abandoned, or does something lurk there, awaiting their arrival?  It got a little convoluted towards the end (the dream sequences started to be a little much for me), but I'm still looking forward to the sequel.

The Man with Two Left Feet And Other Stories by PG Wodehouse. 
Humor, Classics, British Fiction, Short Story Collection
Read
This isn't the best example of prolific British humorist PG Wodehouse's work (he is most famous as author of the Jeeves books -- if you want a mind-bender, check out the old BBC Jeeves shows staring "Dr Gregory House" as flutter-brained Bertie!), but it is pretty good nonetheless.  This is an enjoyable collection of funny short stories, finding humor in unlikely happenstance and elaborate turn of phrase.  Added plus, it's a free download for kindle.  ;)


This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.  
Contemporary Fiction, Dark Humor, Family Drama
Read (if you don't mind crass)
This darkly humorous novel (now a movie, starring Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, and lots of other seriously funny people) dishes out the crass in generous amounts... but alternates with profound moments and really moving one-liners.  Basically, the plot is that a large, non-observant Jewish family all come home to sit shiva for their deceased father, and various and sundry familial chaos ensues.  Aside from the half-assed "drive off into the sunset" ending (pretty sure the author just didn't know how to wrap things up without being cheesy), it's worth reading.

Cupcakes, Trinkets, and Other Deadly Magic by Meghan Ciana Doidge. 
Fantasy, Mystery
Read (if you like witchy/warewolvie/vampirey type books) 
This is a fun and playful take on a magicky contemporary universe, along the lines of Twilight or Vampire Diaries or-- well, take your pick, it's a popular genre right now.  I say "fun and playful" but then, it is a murder mystery, so there's that.  The upbeat half-witch narrator, as well as plenty of scenes in yoga class and the cupcake bakery, help to keep things light.  You'll totally see the ending coming, but it is still an entertaining airplane read... and currently free for kindle!

A Fairly Honourable Defeat (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics), by Iris Murdoch. 
British Fiction
Read (if you like philosophy and can handle depressing -- otherwise Don't Read.)
The title, speaking of defeats that aren't quite honorable, should have been a clue, but it had been a long time since I read this book and I had completely forgotten how meanderingly depressing it is.(this one was carted from move to move as well, shhh!)  Set in the 1960s with a large cast of characters, this story of complicated lives and lies intersecting in London forever changes everyone involved...  And you definitely don't see this ending coming!  Some of the characters will drive you crazy, and I'd be surprised if anybody made it through the book without growing thoroughly attached to Simon and Axel...  there are also some moving passages about life and love, and plenty of philosophical material to chew on throughout, if you're up to it. 


Lady of Devices: A steampunk adventure novel by Shelley Adina. 
Fantasy, Steampunk, Adventure
Read (if you have time on your hands)
This is an enjoyable novel about a free-thinking young society lady who loses her fortune and becomes the underworld / blackmarket queen of London, thanks to her penchant for building steam-devices and concocting chemical potions.  The story ends too soon and doesn't really feel "finished," (typical of self-published serial novels, where they're angling for you to buy the rest of the series) but hey, it was still a lot of fun and it is free for kindle!  I might even buy the second one, at some point.

Simple Living - 30 days to less stuff and more life by Lorilee Lippincott. 
Self-Help, Simplicity Living, Minimalism
Read
Good starting place for someone new to the topic of simple living / minimalism.  Different tasks / focus for each of 30 days... organizing tips, etc.

Stress proof your life (52 Brilliant Ideas) by Elisabeth Wilson. 
Self-Help, Simplicity Living
Read
Tips and inspiration for living simply and breaking free of the stress cycle -- some are good, some are meh.  Definitely worth a skim, if you're in a stressful place in your life right now.

Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery by M. Louise Lodge. 
Mystery, Historical Fiction
Don't Read (unless you like Victorian era mysteries... and are tolerant about the quality of your reading material)
This somewhat meandering mystery story features Annie, a strong-willed boarding house owner, who doubles as a clairvoyant to get away with dispensing business advice to MEN in the Victorian era (oh the audacity...).  When one of her clients is murdered, Annie goes under cover as a servant in his family's household, determined to discover who was responsible for the foul deed.  Some very contrived plot twists, and the author drags other parts out much longer than necessary, but I found the characters colorful and engaging, so I kept reading.  You'll see this ending coming too, though maybe not quite so... dramatically.  Rolling the bad guy up in a carpet is one way to bring him to justice!  *rolls eyes*  In other good news, it was (and is) free for kindle!

How To Declutter And Simplify Your Life by Kathy Stanton. 
Self-Help, Simplicity Living
Nah, skip this one.
Reading books about minimalist living has become kind of like consuming mental comfort food for me... I find them really pleasant and soothing when I have insomnia, even when they aren't well written or very original.  I'm much less critical when it is very late at night, haha.  Why yes, tell me again the six reasons why I should organize... and then maybe some ideas I've heard before about making my home beautiful and clutter free...


A Slip In Timeby Kathleen Kirkwood.  
Romance, Time-Travel
Don't Read (unless you really like romance or/or time travel and are tolerant about the quality of your reading material)
This is technically what I would call a bodice-ripper (you know, those romance novels they sell at Kroger...) but has the added benefit of being a time-travel novel.  It's mildly entertaining (but also predictable and often annoying) story about a girl in the 1800s finding a "slip in time" that transports her to the 1400s and introduces her to a (sexy) Scottish laird.  And of course, they must overcome time and great difficulties to be together, yada yada.  Not terrible, for what it is... at least there was an actual story line!

His Dark Kiss by Eve Silver. 
Romance, (Attempted) Gothic Suspense 
DON'T READ.
I am embarrassed to even admit I read (some) of this one and I just want to say right now that when I downloaded it, it was free, and that's about all anyone should pay for this... TOTAL bodice-ripper.  Described as a gothic suspense story, with shades of Jane Eyre, it was just... exasperating.  I started skipping chunks because reading it in its entirety was so insupportable (said in my best Elizabeth Bennet voice), but I still wanted to find out what was inside the creepy tower...  My critiques include... jumbled plot, totally manipulated characters to have a surprise bad guy, an annoying heroine, and anachronistic dialogue... the heroine kept saying she wanted to make a difference in her student's life... how 21st century sounding is that?  I didn't really like any of it -- even what was inside tower was more unnecessarily gross than creepy.  Oh well. 

In summary.... you should definitely read When You Reach Me and The Woman in White!  A bunch there in the middle you might love or hate depending on the genres you enjoy, and if you pay money for His Dark Kiss I will not be friends with you any more.  Sorry, but it was really, really bad.

Going forward these What to Read / What Not to Read posts will be shorter, I swear!  What do you think, are there any you might give a try?  Come back and tell me your thoughts if you do!  :)

Post may contain affiliate links -- writers drink a LOT of coffee, and it gets expensive, okay?  Thank you for supporting my coffee habit with your clicks.  ;)  All opinions are my own... always! 


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46 comments

  1. I've read Simple Living and Stress Proof Your Life. Both had something interesting to offer. I like the sound of When You Reach Me, and think it would be a good read to share with my Miss Teen. Thanks for stopping by my blog. x

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    1. I'm going to have to go look up the name of the "simple living" book I read last year -- it was so good that I am probably a little biased against these others just because they aren't it. ;P

      Definitely do check out When You Reach Me! :)

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  2. Great book list and I love the little short overviews you give! Thanks! Found you at Manic Mondays link up.

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    1. Thanks! If you decide to read any let me know which ones and what you think. :)

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  3. Thanks for the reading list ideas! I'm stopping by from the Country Fair Blog Party :)

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    1. Sarah - I shared this post as one of my Blue Ribbon winners from the Country Fair Blog Party: http://www.cornbeanspigskids.com/2015/10/country-fair-blog-party-october-2015.html. I hope you link up again this month!

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  4. Lots of great sounding reads in there! You are making my to-be-read pile even longer. LOL

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    1. Oh let's face it, the to-be-read just NEVER ENDS.... but would we have it any other way? ;)

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  5. Thanks so much for sharing your recommendations and giveaway at the #AnythingGoes Link Party.

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  6. Clutterfree with Kids is on my list! I think I need to get on reading it...so much clutter. :)

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    1. I think you'll really like it! Totally check it out and let me know what you think. :)

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  7. I haven't read/heard of any of these, so yay for so many book suggestions! I've definitely been on a leisure-reading kick lately, so thank you for this! :]

    I snickered at the term, "bodice-ripper." :O

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    1. You're welcome! I hope you find some you enjoy. And I'm glad I made you laugh! :D

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    1. Awesome! I hope you enjoy them!! Let me know what you think. ;)

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  9. Thanks for the great list and for linking up with the Book Review Blog Hop. I have to check out a few of those books.

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    1. Thanks!! Let me know what you think if you do. :D

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  10. This was so fun to read! I loved When You Reach Me and will be checking out The Woman in White. I'm sad about Maids of Misfortune because it looked so promising when I downloaded it for free. Oh well! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday!
    Tina

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    1. Oh my gosh, wasn't When You Reach Me so good?? I hadn't even heard of it before I picked it up and I wasn't expecting it to be nearly that good, haha, which made it even better.

      If you like mysteries and Victorian era stuff you should totally still give Maids of Misfortune a go... I liked Annie's character a lot and it could have been really good if it had gotten some better editing. I was just impatient and exasperated by the end. Sometimes I think I am harder on books that are ALMOST great than I am on books that are contentedly mediocre. ;P

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  11. I love recommendations (and tips on what to avoid)! I haven't read any of these and may have to check some of them out! I recently read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which was incredible, if you're looking for a new read. Thanks for linking up at the Manic Mondays blog hop :)

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    1. Ooooh thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely check it out. :D

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  12. Great list. I love your blog too. By the way, your post was the most clicked on Literacy Musing Mondays this week! We featured you. The post goes live Sunday at 6 p.m. Congrats.

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  13. some of those books sound interesting, the ones you said Don't read are ones I wouldn't pick up on the first place :)

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    1. Clearly, you are a woman of keen discernment and excellent taste in literature!! I applaud you. ;P

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  14. Aw, thanks for the shoutout!

    You've also reminded me that I'm late in posting my monthly update. Tonight it is!

    And, I'm adding Clutterfree with Kids to my reading list because HELLO I could use some help in that department.

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    1. Enjoyed your latest update! I hope you like Clutterfree with Kids... you can tell me how it works out for someone who actually can put it into practice with a munchkin. ;P

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  15. Wow! A fantastic list! I too love recommendations and am always looking for quick reads. If they are free on Kindle, even better!
    Thank you for linking up with the Country Fair Blog Party!
    Laurie - Co-Host

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    1. Thanks!! Let me know what you think if you read any of them! :)

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  16. What a list! Love our short blurbs about each book and your last DO NOT READ made me laugh :)

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    1. Hahaha, I'm glad you liked it Alexandra! And I trust you will not be purchasing His Dark Kiss? ;P

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  17. Love this list! Definitely want to try out the Crazy Little Things and Fluency, and I watched This is Where I Leave You, and my husband and I couldn't even make it through the last 30 minutes. Good to know that we didn't miss a blockbuster ending! ;)

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    1. Yay, so glad you got some fun book ideas! Those are both good ones.

      TOTALLY not a blockbuster ending for This is Where I Leave You, unless they tweaked it for the movie... eye roll ending more like.

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  18. What a great list! I'd be interested in that Crazy Little Thing's book. I've also seen the This is Where I Leave You movie which was really cute! I'm suuuuuper picky about my books and it sucks, but I know if I'm not interested in it I won't retain any of it, really was hard to read in high school because of that, lol. I've recently read Working Stiff by Dr. Judy Melinek and it was about her time as a medical examiner in NYC, such a scientific and interesting read, page turner for sure. Now I'm reading one similar. Very morbid I know but so worth the read! Thank you so much for sharing with us at #ThrowbackThursday!

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    1. I still want to see This is Where I Leave you because it has sooo many actors/actresses I like in it... with your recommendation I just might have to check it out. :)

      Working Stiff sounds interesting! I read Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach a couple of years ago... its another good one you should check it out since you like the morbid stuff. :P

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  19. I like PG Wodehouse! I laughed out loud at the NAH! Skip this one! about the organizer.
    I like reading minimalism stuff too. But usually blogs, since I'm too lazy to actually put on clothes and go to the library! Ha ha
    I appreciate your recommendations. I don't like sci-fi, werewolves, depressing, etc. Thanks for slogging thru it so I don't have to!

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    1. PG Wodehouse is classic and awesome. :D You've clearly got good taste!

      Kindle books are extra great because of the not having to put on clothes and go to the library thing... ;P They have apps for reading on your phone, or computer too!

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  20. Now I'm adding even more books to my 'must read' list!

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  21. awesome list! I might have to pick some of these up from B&N! The last good books I read were The Bane Chronicles (Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest (Holly Black) - have you read those?

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    1. Oooooh no, I will definitely look them up!! Thanks for the recommendations!

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  22. On minimalism, have you read the book by Marie Kondo: the life-changing magic of tidying up? It's fabulous.

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  23. The minimalism ones sound especially interesting. Ok, the ones with a "read" note sound interesting anyway!

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  24. The Woman In White has been on my "to-read" list for a while. I think that's also a list of to-read feminist novels, but I can't remember. And Clutter Free with Kids I am *definitely* going to pick up, because we're actually in the process of decluttering this house and my son is a bit of a hoarder. I swear every time I'm going to give away an old toy he hasn't used in a long time, he somehow discovers it and it becomes his new favorite toy. LOL!

    Thanks for sharing at the #FFBH. :)

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