10 Books Worthy of Multiple Reads

I literally have hundreds (as of right now, 645 to be exact) of books on my "To Read" list, and it grows on a regular basis.  Yet there are still books that I really loved and either have revisited or plan to revisit (or both).  

Sometimes it's hard for me to justify rereading books because there are so many books that I haven't gotten to yet.  But, if I really loved a book, sometimes I just really want to read it again.  There are, of course, those disappointing times when it doesn't quite live up to the initial reading.  (I usually find this to be true when a book had a profound impact on me during a very specific time in my life, but it's just not as relevant to where I am in life during the second reading.)  But, for the most part, if I really loved a book, I will continue to love it and revisit it.

I have read Geek Love multiple times, and I always fall in love with it all over again.  It never fails to simultaneously fascinate and repulse me, and it also never fails to break my heart.  I would, without a doubt, count this as one of my favorite books of all time.

I initially read The Bell Jar at a time in my life when it really spoke to what I was currently experiencing.  For that reason, I was hesitant to pick it up again years later -- I worried it wouldn't have the same impact.  Although this has been true with some books, The Bell Jar didn't disappoint.  It simply brought me back to that time, while opening my eyes to how far I have come.

I have only read The Contortionist's Handbook twice, but I would definitely read it again (and again and again).  I think it's important to allow plenty of time between readings of this book, though -- otherwise, it may lose some of its appeal.  It's a quick read that remains strong from start to finish, and it's one of the most interesting books I've ever read.

I actually struggled with adding this book to the list not only because I haven't actually reread it yet, but also because it's such a difficult book to read.  The subject matter of The End of Alice would be enough to turn many people away, but the writing itself makes it that much more uncomfortable.  I say this, yet I also think it's worthy of multiple reads (if you can stomach it, of course).  When I finished this book, I was horrified and disgusted -- yet I was also impressed with Homes's writing and the fact that she was able to make me feel so many emotions so deeply.  This book has stuck with me for many years (I first read it at least 10 years ago ... Maybe longer), and I think it may be time to revisit it soon.

As with the previous book, The Little Friend really stuck with me.  I've only read it twice, but certain scenes from this book have wormed their way into my brain and remained there.  I still regularly think about it, and, for me, that's an indication of an amazing book.

I can get really emotional over books (and songs and movies and TV shows).  I got really emotional over Broken, sobbing so hard that I woke Eric up when I finished it in bed one night several years ago.  (He thought something was actually wrong.  When I told him I was crying over my book, he said, "Oh, okay," and gave me a weird look before going back to sleep.)  I haven't reread this one yet, but I plan to soon.  I have, however, watched the movie, and that sort of counts as revisiting the story ... Right?  The movie is very good, but the book is great.

As with The Bell Jar, I first read Invisible Monsters at a time in my life when I really needed it.  I can't say that I was experiencing the exact same things as the characters in this book (that would be insane!), but I did feel that need to reinvent myself and I felt the absolute truth of the quote "The one you love and the one who loves you are never, ever the same person."  When I reread it last year, it didn't have quite the same impact because so much has changed for me -- but I still enjoyed the wild ride, and I'm sure I'll want to revisit it again in the future.

This is another book that I haven't reread yet, but I have revisited via the film version.  (If you're curious, I watched the 1997 version with Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain.)  Lolita made me feel so many conflicting emotions, and it made me feel them deeply.  And, while I don't think my heart could handle reading this book on a regular basis, it's a book I feel is worthy of reading multiple times.  (And I plan to do that.)

Oryx and Crake is, without a doubt, my favorite Margaret Atwood novel.  Although I haven't gotten around to rereading it yet (or reading the final book in the trilogy, MaddAddam, for that matter!), parts of it have stuck with me since I first read it several years ago.  It's a book I think about often, and despite the fact that I normally wouldn't enjoy a book that relies so heavily on science fiction and fantasy elements, it's one of my favorite books of all time.  I'll definitely read this one again.

I think both the book and movie versions of High Fidelity are excellent, and since I've seen the movie several times, I feel like I've read the book more times than I actually have.  In reality, I think I've only read the book once (so far), but it's a story that I'll be revisiting in the future.  (I would also like to note that the main character, Rob, is, in a lot of ways, my male equivalent -- particularly when it comes to an obsession with musc, list making, and getting inside my head too much for my own good.)

Linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday!

Monthly Gratitude: February 2018 Edition

I know I said this last week, but I can't believe this month has passed so quickly.  I was thinking about my posts for this week, and I realized it was already time to do another monthly gratitude post!  I feel like I just shared January's monthly gratitude post.

This month I'll once again be using prompts I found on Pinterest.  I think this is the best/easiest way for me to keep these posts interesting and avoid talking about the same things over and over.  (At least I hope this is the case.  It's only my second month writing these types of posts, so we'll see what happens!)

- An experience:

I had a hard time narrowing this down to one experience (so this may pop up again in a future post!), but lately I've been thinking about how much of my adult life has been shaped by my decision to go away to college.  There are many reasons for this (and I won't bore you with all of them), but one of the reasons I'm most grateful for this experience is that it really changed who I am as a person -- it allowed me to become more independent, more resilient, and more open-minded.

- Something I didn't have a year ago:

One of my goals for 2018 is to get (and stay!) organized.  Last year I felt like a hot mess at least 95% of the time because I just wasn't on top of things.  At all.  This year I'm grateful not only to have received a planner for Christmas (thanks, Mom!), but also to have come up with a way to organize it so that it works well for me.  I feel like I'm able to achieve my organization goal while feeling less anxious and overwhelmed, and that's definitely something to be grateful for!

- Something I do every day:

No matter how crazy life gets, I always carve out some time for reading.  It's one of my favorite ways to unwind, and I'm grateful to live a life that allows me to have time for myself each and every day.  Whether it's five minutes or five hours, it doesn't matter -- what matters is that I'm giving myself permission to step away from everything for a little while to indulge in something that I love.

- Traits in my significant other:

I'm going to get a little mushy right now.  (Sorry not sorry.)  Eric has many great qualities, but a few that I'm most grateful for include: his kindness, his intelligence, his ability to remain calm in stressful situations, his open-mindedness, his love for travel, and his patience.  I feel pretty lucky to have him in my life.

- The best thing about February:

The best thing about February (for me personally) was getting tickets to not one, but two concerts that I'm really looking forward to.  I know this technically has nothing to do with the actual month of February, but it's what I'm most grateful for this month.  I love seeing my favorite bands and musicians live, so getting tickets to two shows makes me very happy!

This month's quote comes from the song "A Punchup at a Wedding" by Radiohead.  It's short and simple, but it always packs a punch (no pun intended):

A Few Things I Love

Although Valentine's Day isn't a big deal (or really even acknowledged at all) at my house, I still tend to think of February as the "love" month.  This means that I tend to post more love-related blog posts during February (so far I've shared 10 things I like to see in fictional love stories and some of my favorite sad love songs).

While today's post isn't about romance or my relationship with my husband or anything like that, it felt right to share it this month because it's all about some of the things I love.  Yes, this is a very loose, general form of love I'm talking about here, but whatever.  It fits in my head, so I'm just going to go with it.

- The comfort of lying under a cozy blanket

- Discovering something new

- Looking at adorable animal pictures

- Reading a book so engrossing that I never want to put it down

- Listening to my favorite bands/artists

- Enjoying a cup of coffee during a lazy weekend

- The adrenaline rush I get while riding roller coasters and other amusement park rides

- Traveling anywhere

- Trying new restaurants and/or types of food

- Writing something I actually feel proud of

- Sharing an experience with someone I care about

- Live music

- The warmth of the fireplace on a cold winter evening

- Visiting art museums

- Planning for the week ahead

- Spending time with the people I love

- Feeling productive and accomplished

- Singing at the top of my lungs while driving

- Finding a show I'll actually want to binge watch

- People who give me hope that the world hasn't completely turned into a garbage dump shit show

Now it's your turn.  What are some random things you love?

Currently ... February 2018 Edition

February has been kind of a weird month so far.  I know it's the shortest month of the year, but it has felt unusually speedy this year.  I feel like I blinked and suddenly we're in the last full week of the month.  Maybe I feel this way because I haven't completed the majority of my monthly goals.  (And, to be honest, I probably won't finish most of them.)  All I know is that the month has flown by, and I kind of wish time could slow down (at least a little).

Anyway, here's what's going on with me these days:

Currently I'm ...

- Reading: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn.  I thought I would be finished by now, but I haven't had as much time to read as I would like.  When I do have time to read, though, I really don't want to put it down!  It's my tenth book for the year and my first book for the 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge.

- Watching: Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Hulu.  I'd seen a few episodes here and there and thought it was pretty funny, so now I'm watching it from the beginning.  It's ridiculous how much Eric and I laugh over some of the episodes!

- Listening To: A wide variety of things, though I've been semi-obsessed with "TalkTalk" by A Perfect Circle, "Charm Offensive" by Islands, and "High Hopes" by Pink Floyd lately.  They tend to be repeated over and over and over again day after day.  You'd think I'd be sick of them by now, but that's definitely not the case.

- Cooking: Not that often in the last week or so.  Eric cooked the majority of the meals last week because I felt like complete shit every single day.  I think I'll keep him around.

- Working On:
 Getting caught up on things.  I was really on top of things last month, but, as I said at the beginning of this post, this month has gone by way too fast.  I'm going to try to focus on getting caught up on blogs this week.  It definitely helps that I'm not participating in any link-ups.  As much as I love them, I definitely get behind with reading other posts when I'm involved in a link-up!

- Buying: Concert tickets.  I know that I'm trying to save more and spend less, but I'm not even mad that I spent $185 for A Perfect Circle tickets earlier this month.  I've seen Maynard James Keenan live once (with Tool on my 18th birthday!), but I've never seen him performing with A Perfect Circle.  I am ridiculously excited about this show, even though it isn't happening until May 15th.  We're also planning to get tickets for The Smashing Pumpkins this week for an August show.  Eric's never seen them live, and I last saw them in 2007.

- Feeling: Pretty shitty last week (migraines, etc.).  Otherwise, I've been feeling a little behind on things this month.

- Loving: The fact that there is literally a YouTube video for pretty much any workout I want to do.  I wasn't feeling up to going to the gym at all this week, but I forced myself to do a few workouts at home.  I specifically wanted things that were "light" since I wasn't feeling amazing, and there were tons of options for the things I felt like I needed/wanted at the time.  I've been using YouTube workout videos when I couldn't get to the gym for a long time, but I don't think I'd ever really looked for such specific workouts before.

- Hating:
Gun violence.  It's so sad (not to mention scary!) to live in a world where school shootings have become commonplace.  I'm not a parent, but I can't imagine how difficult it would be to not only discuss these things with my child, but also to send that same child off to school each morning with a pang of fear that maybe he/she won't return.  No one should ever have to experience that kind of fear, whether it be a parent, child, or teacher.  This can't go on.

- Discovering: That I care more about certain things than I initially thought I would.  Yes, I'm being vague and yes, I know that can be irritating.  I'm sorry.  I'll elaborate more when I'm comfortable doing so.

- Pinning: Not much in the past few weeks.  I've been trying to keep up with social media for this blog (Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads are really all I use), but sometimes I neglect them.  I probably neglect my Twitter account the most, but I haven't been using my Pinterest account much lately either.

- Considering: Making "try a new group exercise class" one of my goals for March.  There are a few classes I want to try, but I seem to always just stick with my tried and true yoga classes.  I should really try to mix it up once in a while and take advantage of more things offered at my gym.

- Planning: My topic for a short creative piece I have to write and submit at the end of the six week creative writing class I'm currently taking.  I got a random idea for the story a few days ago, but I'm still trying to work through the details.  

Exploring Thrillers: the Good, the Bad, and a Few Top Picks for Future Reads

I love thrillers.  I can't really remember a time when I didn't enjoy them.  As a kid, I definitely read some of the more popular, age-appropriate books (Sweet Valley series, Babysitters Club series, etc.), but I also read authors like Dean Koontz and Stephen King.

My taste in books has changed a lot over the years, but one constant has been my love of thrillers.  Today I'll be discussing some reasons why I love them, some things I tend not to like, and a few books in this genre that I can't wait to read.

I Will Probably Love a Thriller If:

- It has an excellent twist (or two or three).

I love reading a book that can really shock or surprise me, and one surefire way to do that is by throwing in a great twist (or multiple great twists) to mess with my head and make me question everything I thought I knew about the story.

- It has a weird, fucked up premise.

One thing I love about reading is that it offers a form of escape from my day-to-day life.  My life isn't overly exciting (not that I'm complaining), so I don't always want to read about regular people doing normal, everyday things.  (I do enjoy reading about these things in blogs, but I also don't want or expect the same things from a blog that I want and expect in a work of fiction.)  I want to read about things that creep me out, make my skin crawl, and just generally make for good entertainment.  A weird, fucked up storyline is perfect for me for all of those reasons.

- It features anything listed in my post about things that make me want to read a book.

While it's not a guarantee that I'll love a book simply because it has one or more of the characteristics on that list, there's a good chance I will.  (Especially if the book is well-written and is able to shock or surprise me in some way!)

Some of My Favorite Thrillers Include:

These books range from more traditional, fast-paced thrillers to slow burn suspense thrillers to literary thrillers.  All of these books may not work for everyone, but I loved every single one of them.

I Will Probably Dislike a Thriller If:

- It has an obvious "twist" or ending.

I say "twist" in this case because it's not really a twist if it's obvious.  Thrillers should be at least somewhat unpredictable, so if I guess the ending or a "twist" early on, it's probably not going to work for me.

- The twist or ending makes no fucking sense.

I understand an author's desire to surprise or shock the reader in a thriller -- I mean, that's exactly what I want.  But if an author just starts tossing out random things, it's probably not going to work.  A twist and ending need to make sense in the context of the story.  Otherwise, it's pointless (and will most likely make me rage).

- The book relies too heavily on supernatural elements.

I'm generally not a fan of fantasy/paranormal books, so if a thriller relies on this type of thing, I'm probably not going to like it.  There are exceptions, of course -- I'm really drawn to stories involving demonic possession, for example.  But, for the most part, I don't want supernatural elements in my thrillers.

Some Thrillers I Didn't Enjoy Include:

Each of these books received a two star or lower rating from me.  They were each disappointing in their own way, though they all had one or more of the characteristics listed in the "I Will Probably Dislike a Thriller If" section.

I wanted to end this post with a few thrillers I'm most looking forward to reading.  Hopefully I'll get to them sooner rather than later!

A Few of My Top Picks For Future Reads:

I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've read any of the books mentioned in this post.  Are there any books on my "To Read" list that I should bump to the top?

I'd also be interested in your opinions on the thriller genre.  Do you love thrillers?  Hate them?  Only enjoy them if they're fast-paced?  If you decide to write a post about it (or have already done so), please share a link here so I can check it out!

And, of course, special thanks to Lauren at Bookmark Lit for inspiring this post!

Songs for the Brokenhearted

When I was still blogging regularly at Divulge and Indulge, I would post a playlist each month.  Those weren't my most popular posts, but I enjoyed putting them together.

I'm not planning to start creating monthly playlists for The Book Life (though if you're looking for recommendations, I'd be happy to talk music with you).  I will, however, post something music-related from time to time.  I love music more than most things, so it would be kind of weird if I never wrote anything about it.

Today is one of those music days.  

When I was blogging at Divulge and Indulge, I liked to post a sad/angry love songs playlist every February.  With Valentine's Day in the middle of the month, it seemed appropriate.  (Or, you know, in my warped little mind depressing and pissed off love songs seem appropriate for Valentine's Day.)

It's not that I hate happy things ... I really don't.  When it comes to music, though, I tend to gravitate toward the sad and the angry.  I've always really loved sad/angry love songs (regardless of my relationship status) because I feel like they're so raw -- there is just so much emotion behind those words.  

Some of these songs got me through some horrible breakups.  Others are just songs I like.  (And a few of these possibly popped up on previous playlists on my old blog.  Sorry for any repeats.)  Whatever the case, I hope you give them a listen.  

"Near to You" by A Fine Frenzy

"Near to you, I am healing but it's taking so long / 'Cause though he's gone and you are wonderful, it's hard to move on / Yet I'm better near to you"

"At the End of the Earth" by The Dear Hunter

"I never had known such a fragile hurt of a lover's curse / And the echoes of you rhyme like a distant verse on forgotten words"

"Snow Cherries From France" by Tori Amos

"And then one day he said, "Girl, it's been nice ... Oh, but I have to go sailing" / With cinnamon lips that did not match his eyes / Oh, then he let me go"

"Tiny Vessels" by Death Cab For Cutie

"So one last touch and then you'll go / And we'll pretend that it meant something so much more / But it was vile, and it was cheap / And you are beautiful, but you don't mean a thing to me"

"Hear Me Out" by Frou Frou

"Can't you tell I'm not myself? / I'm a slow motion accident lost in coffee rings and fingerprints / I don't want to feel anything, but I do / And it all comes back to you"

"Day Old Hate" by City and Colour

"So let's face it, this was never what you wanted / But I know it's fun to pretend / Now blank stares and empty threats are all I have / They're all I have"

"Oh Well" by Fiona Apple

"What you did to me made me see myself somethin' awful / A voice once stentorian is now again meek and muffled / It took me such a long time to get back up the first time you did it / I spent all I had to get it back, and now it seems I've been outbidded"

"The Engine Driver" by The Decemberists

"And if you don't love me let me go / And I am a writer, writer of fictions / I am the heart that you call home / And I've written pages upon pages trying to rid you from my bones"

"Gravity" by Sara Bareilles

"You loved me 'cause I'm fragile / When I thought that I was strong / But you touch me for a little while / And all my fragile strength is gone"

"Gone" by Ben Folds

"I know that you went straight to someone else / While I worked through all this shit here by myself / And I think that you should spend some time alone / But if you won't, then you won't"

"That Particular Time" by Alanis Morissette

"I've always wanted for you what you wanted for yourself / And yet I wanted to save us, high water or hell / And I kept on ignoring the ambivalence you felt / And in the meantime I lost myself / In the meantime I lost myself / I'm sorry I lost myself, I am"

"Accidental Babies" by Damien Rice

"I know I make you cry / I know sometimes you want to die / But do you really feel alive without me? / If so, be free / If not, leave him for me"

"Hurricane" by The Hush Sound

"You're the finest thing that I've done / The hurricane I'll never outrun / I could wait around for the dust to still / But I don't believe that it ever will / And since the roof fell in, I'll lean on what matters / Caught in the slightest wind, everything else unravels"

"Lua" by Bright Eyes

"I've got a flask inside my pocket, we can share it on the train / And if you promise to stay conscious, I will try and do the same / Well, we might die from medication, but we sure killed all the pain / But what was normal in the evening by the morning seems insane / And I'm not sure what the trouble was that started all of this / The reasons all have run away, but the feeling never did"

"Cup of Coffee" by Garbage

"I'm walking empty streets, hoping we might meet / I see your car parked on the road / A light on at your window / I know for sure that you're home / But I just have to pass on by / So no, of course we can't be friends / Not while I'm still this obsessed / I guess I always knew the score / This is how our story ends"

"I Should Live in Salt" by The National

"Think about something so much / You should know me better than that / Start to slide out of touch / You should know me better than that / Tell yourself it's all you know / You should know me better than that / Learn to appreciate the void / You should know me better than that"

"She's Not Me" by Jenny Lewis

"Remember the night I destroyed it all / When I told you I cheated / And you punched through the drywall / I took you for granted / When you were all that I needed"

"Himerus and Eros" by The Spill Canvas

"I hope to God I mean a little more than the sounds that escape your tired 4:00 a.m. lips / Oh, how I wish I meant a little more than a symphony of heavy breathing and the friction of hips / Yes, it's true, you've brainwashed me and now I'm more confused / I still somehow hope I end up with you / Yes, it's true, I romanticize every single thing I do / Especially when it comes to you"

"All I Ask" by Adele

"I don't need your honesty / It's already in your eyes / And I'm sure my eyes, they speak for me / No one knows me like you do / And since you're the only one that mattered / Tell me who do I run to?"

"I Better Be Quiet Now" by Elliott Smith

"If I didn't know the difference, living alone'd probably be okay / It wouldn't be lonely / I got a long way to go, I'm getting further away / A lot of hours to occupy / It was easy when I didn't know you yet / Things I'd have to forget"

10 Things I Like to See in Fictional Love Stories

I don't read many books that would be classified as "romance," nor do I usually read books in which a love story is the main plot.  They're not really my thing.

I can, however, enjoy a book that includes love/romance as a major theme if it has one or more of the following attributes:

1.) No instalove.

Few things irritate me more than the idea of instalove.  I mean, I know it's fiction, but I still want it to feel somewhat realistic.  You can like someone, lust after someone ... Whatever.  But to truly love someone, you have to know them.

2.) The relationship isn't portrayed as "perfect" or "easy."

I love my husband, but our relationship is far from perfect.  Relationships can be hard, and they require work to remain strong.  If a fictional couple is presented as being perfect with no issues whatsoever and nothing can shake them because they're just so in love ... Well, you've already lost me.

3.) Bad behavior (such as possessiveness) isn't portrayed as "normal" or "okay."

I was once in a horrible relationship with someone who couldn't control his jealousy and seemed to think he "owned" me.  I wouldn't wish that kind of hell on anyone.  It's not sweet and it's not romantic -- it's fucking scary.  Books shouldn't romanticize this sort of thing.

4.) Unrequited love.

I'm sure most of us have, at some point, experienced unrequited love.  Whether it's a friend who doesn't feel the same or an ex you still have feelings for, it's heartbreaking.  It also makes for good reading because it can evoke strong emotions.

5.) A will they/won't they situation.

This is one of the reasons I loved shows like The Office and Friends: Jim and Pam and Ross and Rachel are just two examples of how this type of scenario can suck you in and make you care about the love lives of fictional characters.  This is also true when it comes to books.  I'll want to keep reading if I'm not sure how the situation will play out.

6.) A difficult situation is presented in the relationship.

This could be anything: death of a child, infidelity, the onset of a debilitating illness, etc.  I enjoy reading stories about how people deal with personal struggles, and this is true when it comes to reading about couples as well.

7.) The story follows the dissolution of a relationship.

I love a good break-up story, especially if the author is skilled in character development.  If I care about the characters, my heart will break right along with theirs.  I'm especially drawn to this type of story if it jumps around in time, allowing me to see both the good and bad aspects of the relationship and to truly understand where it all went wrong.

8.) There isn't a happily ever after ending.

I'm probably in the minority with this one, but I don't really enjoy endings in which all the pieces neatly fall into place.  (This is true for all types of books, not just love stories.)  It's not that a happy ending will automatically make me hate a book -- I just prefer bittersweet (or even heartbreaking) endings if I'm reading a love story.  (As for other types of books, I love ambiguous endings that force me to create my own interpretation of how the story ends.)

9.) Obsession plays a major role.

This may seem odd, considering what was said in #3 on this list.  However, if the obsession is not portrayed as normal, I'll enjoy reading about it.  (Some examples of this include You by Caroline Kepnes and The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall.)

10.) The relationship is completely fucked up.

A book that features a completely fucked up romantic situation will very likely catch my eye.  I tend to like my entertainment dark, and that extends to love stories as well.  You can interpret this however you like ... You probably won't be wrong.

This Valentine's Day/love themed list was inspired by this week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt.  I wasn't sure if I would participate this week at first since I don't usually read romance novels.  I guess I thought coming up with a love-related post would be difficult.  I really enjoyed thinking about the types of things I like to see in fictional love stories, though.  It's not something I've ever really given much thought.

Linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday!

January 2018 Reads

I set a reading goal of eight books for the month of January, but I only finished six before the month was over.  I know that's still a decent amount of books -- I was just hoping for a slightly stronger start to the year.  I guess I overestimated how much time I'd actually have for reading.

As I was working on this post, though, I realized that maybe it's not such a bad thing that I only read six books last month.  Writing reviews can be time consuming, and even though I've been keeping a few notes on the books I finish, trying to remember all the reasons I liked (or didn't like) six different books is challenging.  If I'd read more, it would probably be even more difficult.

That being said, it's time to dive into the good stuff.  Hopefully I remembered enough about each book to write useful reviews!

Amazing Books I Highly Recommend

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Completed: 01/05/18
My Rating: *****
Challenge Category: Freebie for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

The Child Finder explores themes of grief and innocence lost through beautiful, lyrical writing.  The main character, Naomi, is a strong, resilient, intelligent woman whose personal experiences with the darker side of human nature have shaped her into The Child Finder -- a private investigator famous for her ability to locate missing children.

There are many books out there about missing children, but few have touched me as deeply as this one.  (I cried at three separate points in the novel.)  Rene Denfeld has a way of taking the darkest, ugliest parts of humanity and making them beautiful.  And, even more impressively, she does this without sacrificing the heartbreaking and horrifying aspects that evoke strong emotional reactions in the reader.

This is my second book by this author.  (I previously read The Enchanted, which I also loved.)  I am eagerly awaiting her next release.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Completed: 01/15/18
My Rating: *****
Challenge Category: A book that starts with the letter "L" for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

If you're a fan of reading and/or you read a lot of blogs written by booklovers, you've probably heard of Little Fires Everywhere.  This book has consistently received rave reviews, and I'm happy to say that it didn't disappoint.

The story itself has many layers, as the members of the community of Shaker Heights attempt to navigate their own lives while allowing themselves to get overly involved in the lives of others (often with disastrous results).  Celeste Ng did an amazing job creating a cast of beautiful, complex characters.  I had a hard time letting them go once I'd finished the last page.  Even the secondary characters were extremely well-developed -- so much so that my heart broke for them as their private pains were revealed.  (And yes, I did cry several times while reading this book.)

I also loved and appreciated many other aspects of the book, like the fact that the story was set in the late 90s.  I was around the age of some of the younger characters during that time, so I enjoyed the 90s references.  (Tori Amos was even mentioned!  I love her.)  I also loved the creativity that went into describing each of Mia's strangely beautiful photographs -- I wished I could actually see them.

I could go on about how much I loved this book ... But I won't.  If you haven't read this yet, you should definitely make it a priority.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Completed: 01/20/18
My Rating: *****
Challenge Category: A book by an author whose first and last name begins with the same letter for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

The Mothers is a realistic story about not only what happens immediately following a life altering choice, but how that choice can affect someone (and those closest to them) years later.  Despite the serious subject matter, Brit Bennett was able to inject a heavy dose of humor into the book.  I really enjoyed the blend of heavy and light-hearted moments, and thought it made for a more well-rounded and interesting read.

The three main characters (Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey) were all flawed and broken in their own ways, and this made me love and care for each of them.  Their story sucked me in, and also broke my heart more than once.  (I definitely cried a couple of times while reading this.)

I also loved that the author tied the church community into the story, especially the sections narrated by the often sassy church mothers.  While I'm not a religious person, I felt the focus on the church community was important to the story.  (And, if you're wondering, I never found it to be "preachy.")

I cannot believe this was a debut novel!  I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Very Good Books That Are Worth A Read

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Completed: 01/29/18
My Rating: ****
Challenge Category: A book from Book Riot's 100 Must-Read Books with Plot Twists list for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

A Head Full of Ghosts is one of those books that played out much differently than I originally thought it would.  I think I would have enjoyed it either way, but I appreciated that the twist in the end wasn't what I was expecting at all.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book -- the overuse of recycled horror tropes would normally drive me nuts, but somehow it actually worked.  For me, the "blog posts" scattered throughout the book that were used to dissect the reality show made these horror clichés work: it was kind of the point to show the audience (or the reader) things they were familiar with in order to evoke a stronger reaction.

The ambiguity, along with the fractured memories of a young woman who lived through some extremely traumatic events as a child, made this a really interesting read.  I love that several parts of the book can be interpreted in many different ways.  As a reader, I like books that force me to think about what's being said/shown instead of just having it all laid out for me by the author.  I definitely got that from this book.

Decent Books That May Work For You

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes
Completed: 01/09/18
My Rating: ***
Challenge Category: A book where most of the action takes place on a form of transportation for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

It took me a while to get into this book, but it really grabbed my attention about halfway through as it became increasingly fucked up.  Unfortunately, it sort of petered out at the very end.  Perfect Days definitely had potential, but it left me less than satisfied.

I alternated between feeling like I didn't want to put it down and feeling completely disconnected from the story.  One of the major issues for me was that I never really connected with the main characters, so I never felt strongly about how their stories should play out.  (Though, as I said, that didn't stop me from feeling disappointed by the ending.)

On the upside, there was some pretty dark humor in the book that I enjoyed.  If, like me, your sense of humor can be a bit fucked up, you might enjoy this book.  (Or at least that aspect of it.)

I wouldn't say that Perfect Days was a bad book -- overall I'd say it was mostly enjoyable.  It really just didn't wow me, and I never felt fully invested.

Mostly Awful Books I Wouldn't Recommend

The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen
Completed: 01/26/18
My Rating: **
Challenge Category: A book with the words "house" or "home" in the title for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

I don't know if my expectations for The Gingerbread House were too high, but I was really disappointed in this book.

My biggest issue was that the writing felt sloppy -- it was almost as if the author was trying to fulfill a certain page quota.  For example, every single move the characters made (and even where they were seated in relation to one another if they were at a group dinner or meeting!) was written out, and it added nothing to the story (or even the scene).  To make matters worse, the characters were all so underdeveloped that I didn't care about any of them.  I felt like I knew more about what they made for dinner than who they were as people.

There was also a subplot involving a female police officer that really had no place in the book.  It had nothing to do with anything (other than the fact that she was one of the officers working on the main case), and updates on this part of the story were just half-assedly scattered throughout the book.  I could maybe understand its inclusion if it was meant to be a set up for a future book (The Gingerbread House is the first book in a series), but the issue was completely resolved.

I did like that Carin Gerhadsen chose to take a less obvious route with her story (at least in one case), and that saved the book from receiving a lower rating.  Overall, though, I found it to be kind of silly, cliché, and boring.  I definitely won't be reading any other books in this series.

Books That Should Never Have Been Published

Thankfully I didn't read any books that were this terrible last month!

I'm posting this a day early, but I'll be linking up with Steph and Jana tomorrow for this month's Show Us Your Books link-up.  I'm looking forward to seeing what others have been reading!

If you missed my earlier post, you can check out what my book ratings mean here.

And, finally, my challenge tallies for the month of January:

Book Challenge by Erin 8.0:
6 books completed
110/200 total points

2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge:
0 books completed

Popular/High Rated Books I Didn't Like

Have you ever been looking forward to reading a book that has a high rating on Goodreads or has been generating a lot of positive buzz amongst bloggers, only to discover that you don't like it?  And, in some cases, not only do you not like it ... You absolutely fucking hate it.

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that this has happened to me multiple times.  Obviously I'm not going to fall in love with every book I read, but there have been plenty of times when I've read something and thought, "Was everyone else reading a completely different book?"

Today I'm going to share some of the books I've read that didn't work for me (but others seemed to really enjoy).  

(average Goodreads rating = 3.81)

The Good Girl was one of those books that seemed to be very popular amongst bloggers (or maybe just the bloggers I regularly read).  It was popping up on my feed for months, and most people seemed to think it was worth a read.

I was definitely in the minority with my 2 star review.  I didn't like the writing style (it was very choppy and awkward), and telling the story from three different points of view really didn't work.  I actually love books told from multiple points of view (I know some people don't), but not if the voices of the characters are all nearly identical.  And the twist in the end?   Sure it was surprising, but only because it made no fucking sense.  I refuse to share spoilers, but seriously ... A twist needs to make sense in the context of the book.  If it doesn't, it's just sloppy.

(average Goodreads rating = 3.67)

I was initially drawn to this book because it seemed to have a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads (not to mention a fairly long waiting list at the library).  That's usually a good sign, right?  Not in this case, apparently.  

The Ice Twins was a hot mess.  I couldn't figure out what the author actually wanted from the book because there were too many underdeveloped ideas and random subplots to form a cohesive story.  If that wasn't bad enough, the dialogue annoyed the hell out of me.  I also couldn't understand why seven-year-old children were made to act and speak like babies.  They probably shouldn't act and speak like adults, but I would think most seven-year-old kids have developed a reasonably decent vocabulary and have moved past toddler-like behavior.  (Correct me if I'm wrong ... I have no kids.)  I think I was being generous when I gave this 2 stars.

(average Goodreads rating = 4.11)

I really wanted to like Fangirl because nearly everyone I know (or, you know, "know" in the blogging world) absolutely loved it.  It wasn't the type of book I'd usually go for, but that didn't necessarily mean I wouldn't enjoy it.  I mean, I like to mix things up now and then.

Unfortunately, I just really didn't like this book.  I got so angry over the horrible descriptions that were (maybe?) supposed to be awkward, but just came off as bad writing.  I was annoyed with the fanfiction sections.  (I understand why they were there, but they took me out of the story and were just generally awful.)  I hated the overly cutesy characters and storylines.  The book did have a few redeeming qualities, but it still barely deserved a 2 star rating.

(average Goodreads rating = 3.86)

This was my first (and so far only) Harlan Coben book.  His books seemed to consistently get pretty high reviews on Goodreads, and the premise behind The Stranger seemed interesting ... So I decided to give him a try.

Maybe I should have paid a little more attention to the mixed reviews before selecting this book.  I did notice, however, that most of the lower reviews came from fans of Coben's work.  I think I just assumed that they were disappointed because it didn't live up to their very high expectations.  (And that's totally understandable.  I don't always love every book my favorite authors have written either.)  But this?  This was a fucking train wreck.  The writing was sloppy and overly simplistic (maybe he had a deadline?), and the book itself wasn't the fast-paced thriller it claimed to be.  In fact, it was a horrible combination of boring and over-the-top-batshit-crazy.  If you couldn't already guess, I gave this book 1 star.

(average Goodreads rating = 3.75)

I know ... I clearly don't like Mary Kubica.  I generally like to give authors a chance to redeem themselves, though.  I also have a hard time completely ignoring any sort of thriller/mystery/crime/suspense novel that's having a "moment."  At the time, this book, like The Good Girl, seemed to be everywhere ... So of course I had to read it for myself.

One of my biggest book-related pet peeves is finding glaring spelling and grammatical errors while reading.  If I can catch these things without trying, why can't the editors?  I will never understand that.  I mention this because I found a ridiculous number of mistakes in this book.  That was bad enough, but I was never fully engaged in the story and I found the writing to be bland.  I gave the book 2 stars only because I thought Mary Kubica was able to create unique voices for each of her characters (a vast improvement over her first novel).

(average Goodreads rating = 3.82)

I had really high expectations for Heart-Shaped Box.  Sometimes I worry about going in with such high hopes, but I've read plenty of books that have met or exceeded my high expectations ... So it's not like I have impossibly high standards that no book can ever live up to.

Unfortunately, this book was a complete flop.  If I find myself not caring about the characters and rolling my eyes over the way things are playing out, that's a problem.  If I'm bored while reading a book that's supposed to be scary, that's an even bigger problem.  I think I gave this book 2 stars only because it referenced a few bands I like.

(average Goodreads rating = 3.67)

Although The Woman in Cabin 10 has received some mixed reviews, I still consider it to be a pretty popular book.  It was read and discussed by many bloggers, it has a fairly high overall rating on Goodreads, and I waited for several months to get it from the library.  Those are all things I'm considering when choosing books to include on this list.

I really liked Ruth Ware's first novel, but I gave The Woman in Cabin 10 a 2 star rating.  My biggest issue with this book was that it couldn't keep my attention -- I just never felt like picking it up.  And the twist?  It wasn't very shocking or surprising ... It was just kind of "meh."

(average Goodreads rating = 3.53)

At one time, I felt like I was seeing this book everywhere.  It was listed as a thriller/mystery/crime novel, so, of course, I had to read it.  (The mostly 4 and 5 star reviews that kept popping up on Goodreads helped seal the deal.)

This was a case of a book starting off really strong and then quickly snowballing into a pile of shit.  I can't understand how this book was shortlisted for so many prizes.  While it annoyed me (at least a little) that the book didn't really seem to belong in the thriller/mystery/crime genre, I was mostly frustrated by the story itself.  I gave it 2 stars because of the wonderful beginning, but the rest of the book went off into a ridiculous direction. 

What books have you read that didn't live up to the hype?

10 Books That Have Been on My "To Read" List Way Too Long

I have a horrible habit of adding tons of books to my "To Read" list on a regular basis.  Some of these books are suggestions from Goodreads, some of them are suggestions from other bloggers, and some of them I'll find randomly while looking through my library's website to see what's on order/new/currently available. 

This probably wouldn't be so terrible if I made more of an effort to select books from different areas of my list when I'm choosing what to read next.  Instead, I tend to get distracted by new releases and/or the books I've added to my list most recently and forget all about the books that have been lingering on the list for years.

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is all about those books that have been sitting on my "To Read" list way too long.  

I'm embarrassed to say that I could have easily made a list of 50 or more books that have been on my "To Read" list for at least three or more years, but I narrowed it down to the 10 I am most likely to read this year.  

I mentioned this book in a previous Top Ten Tuesday post, and the main reason it made that list is because it's currently sitting at the top of my "To Read" list.  I add books to the list as I find them, so books at the top of the list have been there the longest.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that this book has been on my "To Read" list for over five years.

This book was also featured in the post I linked above for the same reason.  I'm not really sure why I keep putting off reading it (other than maybe the fact that it's a little longer than the average book I read?), but I'd really like to get to it this year.

One of my absolute favorite books of all time is Oryx and Crake.  That book also happens to be the first book in the MaddAddam trilogy.  I also read and enjoyed The Year of the Flood several years ago (which is the second book in the trilogy).  So why have I been putting this one off?  I wish I had an answer for that.  I bought a copy several years ago to complete my trilogy, but then I just never read it.  Luckily, it fits a category for the 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge (the next book in a series you started), so that's an added incentive for me to finally mark it off my list!

I can't even remember where I first heard about this book, but it's been on my "To Read" list for several years.  I used to actively search for it any time I headed out to Half Price Books, but I could never find it.  (Why I didn't just order it from Amazon or another bookstore I'll never know.)  I do know that my library has at least one copy, though, so I should be able to find an opportunity to get to it this year.  (I also really want to read Alissa Nutting's newer release, Made for Love, but I want to read this one first.)

About eleven or twelve years ago I read and loved Craig Clevenger's The Contortionist's Handbook.  I reread it again a few years ago, and it was still a five star read.  It's safe to say, then, that I've been dying to read Dermaphoria for many years.  The only problem?  It's not available at my library.  I've been trying to prioritize books I can get for free at the library, but there are some books that I really want to read that just aren't available there.  I have an Amazon gift card that I'm planning to use to purchase this book (and maybe one or two others that I can't get at the library but think I'll love), so I feel pretty confident in saying that I should finally get to it this year.

I can, with 100% certainty, say that I've been putting off reading this book because of the incredibly heavy subject matter.  I like my books dark and fucked up, but there are some books that seem so intense and disturbing that I know I won't enjoy them unless I'm in the right sort of mood.  This is one of those books.  While I can't be sure I'll feel like reading it this year, I'd love to be able to finally cross it off my "To Read" list.

I'll admit that while I'm not usually a fan of books with science fiction and/or paranormal elements (with the exception of time travel because that fascinates me), once in a while I'll take a chance on something that's outside my reading comfort zone if the premise sounds interesting enough.  I think that's what initially led me to add 14 to my "To Read" list years ago.  It may also be the main reason I haven't gone out of my way to actually read it.  Apparently my library has a digital copy of this book, though, so I think I may finally get around to checking it out this year.

I've read a couple of Erin Kelly's novels (The Poison Tree and He Said/She Said), and I really enjoy her writing and storytelling styles.  I can't remember if I added The Burning Air to my "To Read" list before or after I read The Poison Tree, but it's definitely been sitting on my list for several years.

9.) The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

I watched the movie with my mom years ago (yes, she's also a fan of scary books and movies), and I've wanted to read the book ever since.  I usually like to read the book first, but it's not the end of the world if I haven't.  (I just don't like picturing the characters as they were portrayed in a movie/TV show.)  It actually worked out in my favor that I saw the movie first, though, because now I can use it for the 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge (a book made into a movie you've already seen)!

10.) The Obscene Bird of Night by José Donoso

I'm rounding out this list with a book that has been on my radar since I first heard about it back in college.  (I graduated in 2006 ... So it's been a while.)  I was always a little on the fence about it (and therefore not as willing to purchase it), but the premise (and title!) really intrigued me.  Apparently it's available at my library ... Who knew?  I'm looking forward to finally reading it.  

Linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday!