Five Star Books: 2019

In my last post, I gave myself the idea of making a top ten list of my favorite books that I read in 2019. Well, I thought of it for about 23 seconds and decided that’s impossible. I can’t tell you the very best. What kind of a monster do you think I am?!

What I can do, though, is give you a list of all of the books I marked with Five Stars on Goodreads, though! Hey, follow me on Goodreads if you want to.

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I don’t really have a super thoughtful method to describe how I decide that a book is five-stars-worthy. It’s  just, if I really liked it. Like, if I would super duper recommend this book to someone else, then it gets five stars. If I liked it fine but I probably won’t evangalize about it or anything, I’ll give it four. Looking at my Goodreads account, though, it turns out that if I wouldn’t rate it four stars and above, I probably won’t finish it. So… we both learned something about me today. There are too many books to spend time on three-star ones. AND WE’RE OFF!!

Five Star Books I Read in 2019 (in no particular order of preference):

Maisie Dobbs (book #1) by Jacqueline Winspear
I listened to this on Audiobook. It’s the perfect cozy mystery series. I don’t usually love a series but I will definitely read more from this one.

Exit West by Hamid Mohsin
This is the closest thing to science fiction that I can get. But I loved it. It took me to places and scenarios that are so different from the live I currently live.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I felt so connected and invested in all of these characters.

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Hated the ending. But adored all the rest in this book full of so much love and humanity.

Kindred by Octavia Butler
No, this is the closest thing to science fiction that I can get! This book blew my mind! I know that I said that it would be impossible to list my top ten favorite books but it’s easy for me to tell you what my number one favorite was. It was Kindred. Ten stars. I want to read everything she’s ever written.

There You Are by Mathea Morias
I’ve been describing this book as if The Hate U Give and High Fidelity had a baby. It’s a love story but without the romance. And it’s so good.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Blew! My! Mind! I love the way she played with structure. I loved the plot twist. I loved the setting and time period. I loved it all.

Girls Like Us by Randi Pink
This is a book about found family. It feels so honest and true–probably because it doesn’t stray too far from the very real history of women and femmes who had the misfortune of turning up too pregnant too early in our not too distant past.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
The fact that this book was based on an American truth brought me to my knees in both sorrow, rage and acknowledgement that this story isn’t over.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
I wrote about this in my last post, so I won’t get into it again.

We are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White
This one took me to some unexpected places and wondering where I fit on the spectrum between Apathetic and Extremist.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
This memoir broke my heart. At times, I only kept reading because I knew that the main character definitely survived because she was able to write this book.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
*See The Downstairs Girl

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
This is like The Hunger Games meets The Handmaid’s Tale. I folded so much laundry while listening to this on Libro.fm.

The Mountains Sing by Nguyến Phan Quế Mai
Admittedly, I’ve never known that much about Vietnam. Neither the country nor the war that took place there. I felt so deeply for this family and for the way they fought for the promise of a future by searching their past. The writing is incredibly descriptive without bogging the story down in details. It was masterfully done.

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
The delicious undertones of this book are all focused on themes of forgiveness and whether or not it’s important to tell the whole truth all wrapped up in a delightful, exciting thriller.

*Bonus since I haven’t finished it yet but I will finish it before 2019 is over and I promise this is a five star book:

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West
I’m listening to this one on Libro.fm and every thirty seconds I’m chanting, “YES Lindy! YES!” Lindy answers so many questions but just for fun, here’s one: “How the eff are we seriously calling Ted Bundy ‘charming’ while also wondering if Elizabeth Warren is ‘likable’???” And I want to know the answer too. Just kidding WE ALL KNOW THE ANSWER. IT’S BECAUSE WHITE, CIS MEN ARE WORSHIPED JUST FOR BEING ALIVE EVEN IF THEY ARE VERY LITERAL SERIAL KILLERS WHILE EVERYONE ELSE HAS TO BEND OVER BACKWARDS WHILE BALANCING DISHES IN BOTH HANDS JUST TO BE CONSIDERED VAGUELY ACCEPTABLE. Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell but also, like, Lindy West makes me need to yell. WOO! Feels good!


Well, now that we know what my super favorite books are from this year, I wonder if it’s telling anything about what kind of books I like?

What were your top favorite, five star books of this year?

XOXO, Lib

Dear Edward and The Downstairs Girl

915UZJcSq5LDear Edward is being released in early January and it’s definitely one of my favorite books that I read this year. I’m sure it would break the top ten list if I felt like sitting down and really ranking them all. Wait. Should I do that???

Anyway,  Dear Edward tells a really incredible story with not only a captivating premise (plane crash, one survivor) but also a lot of beauty and heart and serious honesty about the way that humans connect to one another–even if they’re strangers on a plane.

There’s a mystery that only Edward can solve–but he’s got to rebuild himself in order to solve it. Or does he need to solve the mystery in order to rebuild himself? Either way, there’s a lot of work to be done.

Though I wouldn’t necessarily shelve this in YA, it is going to be a great read for an older YA audience or anyone who loves a really good coming of age story–particularly for anyone who was a fan of Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker or Paper Towns by John Green.

I thought about gifting this book to my 14 year old niece for Christmas but then I was reminded about a few things, content-wise, that I might wait on. I’m not saying that she’s not mature enough to read a book with one not-overtly-graphic sex scene. I’m just saying, I’m not the one who’s going to give it as a Christmas gift. Maybe one day she’ll come over and browse my bookshelf and THEN I’ll happily pass it along. Ya know what I mean?

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Instead, I’m going to gift The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee to her. This book really has it all. I loved it so much. It’s a historical novel with themes around race and gender relations in the genteel south but it’s all wrapped up in a truly engrossing story!  I learned so much reading this book. Like, did you know that Asians weren’t allowed to own property in the south in the late 19th century? Nor was it legal to rent to Asians? So, like, where TF are they supposed to live?!

Anyway, by day, Jo Kuan is a lady’s maid for a very rich and quite cruel family in Atlanta. By night, she’s a secret advice columnist! In a world where non-white people didn’t have any voice at all, Jo Kuan spoke up! And she changed! Her! World!

I will end this piece with a quote from a review from “Kate (GirlReading)” on Goodreads: “Apparently historical fiction novels following badass teen journalist using their voices to stick it to societal norms and shine a light on injustice is absolutely my kryptonite.” Same, Kate. Very same.

XOXO, Lib

 

Everything’s Changed

So, I haven’t posted here in a long, long time. Like, over a year? Because my life has changed in a big way.
In September of 2018, my spouse and I bought a used bookstore in our town and I’m getting the hang of being a business owner. Honestly, I had to get reacquainted with going to a physical job every day and that was one of the hardest parts. I went from working 8 hours a week outside of the house to working 50+ hours outside the house. Whew. It’s been an adjustment, to say the very least.

Unsurprisingly, my reading life has completely changed as well. Before, I just read anything that sounded good to me. And I only read physical books. I was a, “I just can’t imagine not hoooolding a phyyyysical booook” snob. And I’d buy any ole book that appealed to me when I went to bookstores, reading it whenever I got around to it (almost never getting around to it because I’d always find another book I wanted). I loved being surrounded by stacks and stacks of books at home.

Now? Well, as far as books go–I no longer need to be surrounded by them at home. I’ve got 12,000+ books at work, where I spend most of my time. So, I really don’t buy a book for myself anymore unless it’s something that I will read right away or if it’s for a book club.

Now, I want to be up on books to recommend to my customers! I need to know my product. And let me tell you–this is so hard for me. Mostly because since we’re a used bookstore, we don’t have a back stock of every book I’ve ever loved. If I loved a book and then hand sell it–guess what? It’s gone. I can’t sell it again. So the next person who comes in and asks for a recommendation… uh, well? I just sold the last book in this store that I’ve read before. Haha! It’s a weird predicament!

So, now, I’ve always got three books going at once. I honestly thought people who could read more than one book at a time were super human–how do they keep it all straight?! But now it’s my usual! And I’ve got a system:

Audiobooks: Our store got hooked up with Libro.fm this year which means that you can listen to audiobooks AND still support our store, which is so cool (full disclosure, that link and the rest of the links re: audiobooks in this post will take you to our store’s Libro.fm page and any purchases made through it help support our shop). I’ve always got an audiobook going for when I’m doing chores around the house or driving. Here are a few titles that I’ve read and loved:
Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness (Narrated by JVN which, thank goodness, because I just can’t imagine anyone else reading his words.)
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Narrated by Tom Hanks which was… ugh. Delightful.) You know how people say, “I could listen to them read the phone book.”? Yeah. It’s like that. Which is good because while The Dutch House is magnificent, it was a little bit slow-going for me at first but Tom pulled me though.
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller) Once you really start listening to Audiobooks, you might get picky about your narrators. I definitely have my favorites and the way Emily Woo Zeller embodied these characters felt so effortless. This story was incredible! I loved it. It’s one of the few books I’ve read where I felt like The Suffragists were handled appropriately–not forgetting how brutally racist they were while they were fighting for their own rights.
That’s just a few of the audiobooks I’ve loved lately. There are so many others. I like to have an audiobook going so that I’ve always got one to recommend to a customer.

E-books: The books I read on my phone are mostly only for my own enjoyment. I pretty much only read them when I can’t sleep. The e-books that I read are all advanced reader copies that I get from Net Galley. I read them and write reviews about them, mostly on Goodreads, but I’m ready to get back into regular blogging and will be posting my reviews on my blog once these books start to be released. I’ve read some really, really good books that I want to get you excited about.

Physical Books: For some reason, reading physical books is the hardest for me in this phase of my life. I feel like my mind is always somewhere else and I am always moving and thinking ten steps ahead. There’s so much work to be done at the store and at home and it feels frivolous to be sitting down reading a book when there is so much to do. But also, being able to recommend books to people is a primary part of my job. And, as I mentioned before, I can’t recommend a book if I haven’t read it. So my rule on reading physical books is that I won’t read anything if it isn’t available in the store for me to sell. I’m also working to read outside of my usual genres. That means reading more mysteries and thrillers than I’m used to and dipping my toes into our science fiction and horror sections as well. I naturally gravitate towards literary fiction and memoir, so I’m trying to stretch my horizons. Also, I have to set aside time to read. I try to get all of my work done before the last hour of the day so that I can spend that time reading physical books in the store. Customers ask me all the time, “So do you just get to sit around and read all day???” I get where that question is coming from but it’s just not reality for a bookstore owner.  To be quite honest, I still struggle to set aside time to read but I’m working on it.
Physical books or authors I’ve read recently and loved:
Kindred by Octavia Butler (if there was one book I think everyone in my orbit should read it would be this)
Exit West by Moshin Hamid
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

Anyway, it feels good to be writing to you, again. I make no promises on how often I’ll be doing it or what I’ll be writing about–just whenever and whatever feels good, which is basically how I’m living my life these days.

Oh, and right now I’m reading:
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (audiobook)
We Wish You Luck by Caroline Zancan (ebook: Will be released in January)
And I just finished by physical book so I’m searching our shelves for a new one currently.

Anyway, thanks for being here.
XOXO, Lib

Sweet Things on Sunday

*This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you purchase anything through them.

It’s been well documented that nothing makes me cringe more than the phrase “self care routine”. More often than not, people are asking “what products do you use?” Don’t get me wrong, self care is my jam! It’s something I love learning about and a space where I love to grow. That being said, though, washing my face isn’t the beginning and end of self care.
Having and adhering to routine is a huge part my self care, though. That’s what makes me feel well cared for. And since I love hearing about other people’s evening routines, I thought I’d tell you about mine.


First I push my hair back with these headbands because while bangs are s’cute! They’re also a pain in the neck. I like these headbands because of the way they’re folded over in the back it keeps them flat–I don’t know how to explain it. They just work for my lumpy head.

Then I remove my makeup with either a wipe like these (I’m not brand loyal here) or a cotton pad soaked in witch hazel.

When it comes to washing my face, these Olay Daily Facials have swooped in and made me so happy. I like the “daily hydrating clean” version. I’m not sponsored by Olay but I would totally jump on that partnership. I only have a limited number of washcloths in my house and I don’t have a washing machine–so these Daily Facials have changed the game for me! I love it. They’re dry paper towels, more or less, that you get wet under water and then rub all over your face! Only way more luxe than that. They smell great and leave my skin plump and clean and I love them. I understand that this isn’t the most waste-free option but it’s working for me right now. And they’re perfect for travel since you don’t have to dispense face wash into a small little bottle in order to get on the plane.

A few times a week I like to exfoliate. Right now I’m using this one by Mario Badescu and it’s pretty good but this one, “Brighten Up” by Vasanti is my ultimate favorite, best of the best, and it lasts forever. (Use my link to sign up for Birchbox if you wanna.)

This is my favorite toner! Look, I don’t know how to tell if a toner is working but I don’t think it’s not working and when I run out, I’ll definitely buy more of this. I like the way it feels and smells. I like the price point and I really love that it’s in a spray-bottle.
I also have been really loving this rosewater spray by Mario Badescu for when it’s super hot outside. It’s a nice mid-day pick me up but this is about my night time routine.

Right now, after I tone, I’m using two products from The Ordinary: Niacinamide which is a blemish formula and Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil to moisturize. I like them okay, I guess? The Rose Hip Seed Oil kind of smells like sunflower seeds. When they’re out, I’ll definitely try something else (I ordered a serum sampler from Birchbox that is full of a lot of different ones I’ve been dying to try).
Honestly, I feel kind of weird about giving my money to The Ordinary. After following them on Social Media for the past few months, it feels like I’m helping to fund someone’s very public mental breakdown TBH. But also, the prices are so good so I don’t blame anyone for buying from them.

Finally, when I brush my teeth, I also brush my lips to exfoliate and then apply Dr. Lipp Miracle Balm which is, apparently also for chapped nipples for nursing mothers? Or… I don’t know… runners? Anyway, it’s SO GOOD and a little bit goes a long way. I just have a tiny sample size that is .10 oz and I’ve been using it nightly for a whole month. I can only imagine that a full size tube would last for years if you only used it on your lips. But in the winter time I’ll definitely be using it on chapped fingers and knuckles.
Anyway, I apply this to my lips at night and I can’t get over how sexy my pout looks in the morning. For real.

A reader, Gabrielle, sent me this gratitude journal and I’ve actually incorporated it into my night time routine. I love ending my day on a grateful note–searching for the positive in the day. And I like how there’s a different question every day instead of a generic, “what are you thankful for?” I think I might put some of these on my Christmas list.


What about you? Any products you love? Do you have an ole reliable nighttime routine that gets you into a sleepy place? Tell us all about it.

XOXO, Lib

 

Feature Photo by Anna Sastre on Unsplash

Sweet Things on Sunday

Sometimes when I’m having a really rough day, I’ll text Ryan about it. And nine times out of ten, he responds with this image of a hedgehog.

Usually that really helps. Somehow, a happy lil hedgehog helps me to at least get a bit of the grip I need to pull myself out of a funk. But sometimes that doesn’t happen. And that’s when we pull in the big guns. That’s right: unusual animal best friendships. Here are five of my favorite for you to bookmark for when you’re having a crummy day.

Continue reading “Sweet Things on Sunday”