On Selectivity

In the past year of hanging out with everyone over on bookstagram, we've been inundated with so many good books on our feed, its overwhelming. Opening that app is basically like being hit with a flood of colorful covers and enticing synopses, of strong opinions, trends, and community. We love bookstagram so much, and find it such a fascinating corner of the internet filled with our wonderful fellow readers, but it is also such a crush of good books, we know we can never keep up.

Every week there are hot new releases, books everyone is reading, and a keen awareness of what's next. Everything always sounds so interesting and we just want to read it all, honestly....but we can't. We have busy lives, just like all of you, and that boils down to not enough time to ever get to all the books that are trending, or that everyone is currently obsessed with. We are all too aware that many of you feel the same struggle. 

We've been coming to accept that we can't keep up, and instead use bookstagram (and the internet at large) as a window into exploring books that might be perfect for us. 

Anne from Modern Mrs Darcy has a great point about focusing on choosing the best books for you and not necessarily paying attention to hype. This all hinges on the idea that you have to be real with yourself about your reading style, which can be a really hard thing to pinpoint, as a lot of us are often in flux.

I don't know about you guys, but I personally find myself fixated on a genre for a while then wandering off to something else, or noticing that my tastes are evolving, and I'm not sure what exactly is it I'm looking for any more. Knowing that, there are two things I'm focused on this year to do a better job of being selective with what I read.

Being honest with myself about whether or not a book is for me. This means taking stock of how I currently feel, monitoring my instinctive reactions to a synopsis or the opinion of someone I trust, and going more with what my gut is telling me I need more of. Lately that has looked like offbeat literary fiction and classics, but who knows what it will be next month. The important part is that i'm never trying to talk myself into a book and am able to let one go if it isn't immediately grabbing me. Basically if I don't want to drop everything else to read it RIGHT NOW, I should probably pass. 

Not getting too sucked into the hype. Having everyone around you clamoring that you just HAVE to read this book can feel like so much pressure, and it's easy to just want to keep up with what everyone else is loving and join in the larger conversations around these books. However, I'm learning that I actually really dislike a lot of what everyone else loves. I'm not exactly sure why that is, and it's certainly been making me feel a little out of step with the book world at large, but it's also forced me to go out of my comfort zone in search of books that I truly connect with, which has been eye opening and wonderful. It's led me to try new authors, test independent publishers, and say yes to things I wouldn't have considered before.

We'll see how this year plays out in terms of how well I can stick to these intentions and what impact it will have on my reading life, but I'm curious to know if anyone else has systems for themselves to stay selective about books??


Literary Dinner | Phantom of the Opera

The days are finally starting to lengthen and the sun is peeking out from the clouds more often here in the PNW, so we decided to sneak in just one more winter feeling dinner party before we switch gears towards our spring reads! Phantom of the Opera was the perfect blend of the golden glamour and sinister horror as we stand on the precipice of the season. It's a short classic, only a little over 200 pages, was published in 1911, and we read the translation by David Coward. More about the importance of translations here!

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Rikki had never seen any of the movies before, but I've seen the play twice and watched the movies countless times thanks to a high school obsession with it. I will say that while the plot of the movie and the book are similar, the movie is much more focused on the melodrama/romantic and the horror aspect is downplayed a bit. In the book the Phantom is much more evil, murderous, and just straight up insane. His backstory differs in the two versions as well, which was interesting.


For this dinner, the theme was "gilded horror". We took the glittering opulence of the opera house and blended it with some darker elements to achieve that beautiful, sinister feel the book has. We've said it before and we'll say it again, we make the most of what we already own and purchased almost nothing. It's just a matter of eyeing what we have and blending them together to achieve the look and feel we're going for. Fresh flowers make a big impact, too!


We started with a plain white table cloth, on which we set a deep red table runner (also seen in this dinner party!) and overlaid with music pages that I had spent the morning carefully burning the edges of over my sink. I only had to drop one into the basin and frantically blast it with water to put out the flames haha! It was just a thrifted music book I had picked up cheap, so I didn't mind tearing it apart and singeing it. 


On top of that, I dug out my black Halloween cloche and placed a Phantom mask I picked up at a craft store along with a little bud vase of red roses and a mirror necklace that belongs to Rikki's daughter. Flanking that we had two enormously tall black taper candles to give some height and drama, with smaller tapers and vases of roses falling away. Glittery tea lights were scattered along with a few rose petals that fell during the flower arranging process. Our place settings were gold rimmed crystal plates set on black chargers; gold utensils and gold striped napkins in rings completed the tablescape.


On the counter behind the table we set up basically a solid wall of candles flickering in the window, with some flower arrangements tucked in for color and texture. I imagined the ballroom in the opera house ablaze with candlelight and golden accents for this. I literally just went and pulled out every candlestick and holder I owned that was gold or crystal to achieve this, and set a hammered gold tray of drink supplies alongside a marble cheese tray for bread and cheese. Our copies of Phantom captured between my Eiffel Tower book ends lurked in the corner. 


We were lucky to collaborate with So Many Damn Books for the drinks portion of this dinner. Chris and Drew host one of my favorite podcasts, where they interview authors while sipping on a drink they created that was inspired by the book they're discussing. If you haven't given them a listen, check them out! They were kind enough to send us a recipe they created called "The Mask" which was the perfect smooth, potent accompaniment to our appetizers.

Phantom Cocktail.png

For dinner, we kept in mind that the book is set in turn of the century Paris, and opted to stay with ultra classic French food. We made coq au vin and herb roasted potatoes, which we naturally paired with French wine. Dessert was opera cake and macarons, because of course! Keeping the food simple and classic made the evening flow easily, and we talked and drank way past our bedtimes. There's something so alluring about sitting around a beautifully set table with friends and bookish conversation, and it continues to be the main motivation behind throwing these literary dinner parties. 


We were so glad to close out our winter season with this dinner party, and are already planning our first spring dinner of the season in a couple of weeks! À la prochaine, mes amis!

Do You Avoid Certain Topics in Books?

We love to talk about the books we love, and the books that define us as readers, but rarely do we look at the uglier side of our reading lives. And why not though? When examining yourself as a reader, knowing what you don't like is an essential part of being able to choose books for yourself, even when it feels uncomfortable to face. Our dislikes anchor the other end of the spectrum of our tastes, and help us pinpoint what it is in books we prioritize or avoid.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to be a better, more efficient selector of books for myself this year. Last year I went on an exploratory spree of allllll the books, but being all over the map and going with the hype stuck me in a place where I wasn't enjoying reading nearly as much as I usually did. That exploration proved essential though, because it forced me to come to terms with the fact that I'm a very different reader than I once was, and that I need to get a better handle on my shifting tastes in order to fully enjoy my reading life. After considering all the new books that I've loved recently, and examining what specifically I enjoyed about certain books, I then had to go back and look at what I didn't like to help myself navigate my new reading life.

While I was doing this, I realized that I consistently avoid a few topics and genres in books carte blanche:


  • Any book where a parent or kid dies, or where grief is the focus
  • Torture in any form
  • Books dealing with WWII in any capacity


I can explain the grief/death thing pretty well; my mother died a couple years ago, and that is just an off-limits area for my brain right now. Torture is distasteful for many people, so thats not a particularly odd thing to actively avoid...but the WWII theme surprises me.

I've been avoiding WWII in novels for quite a while, honestly; it's like my brain just hits a wall and goes NOPE whenever that's the setting or a main theme. I have literally no explanation for this violent reaction. Maybe I had a horrible experience in a past life? Who knows, but as open minded as I want to be with books that feature WWII, I'm learning to accept that I just can't read about it, and am starting to let it go. That means no bestsellers like The Nightingale or All the Light We Cannot See for me, but I'm okay with that, I think. 

This got me thinking: does everyone have things they consistently avoid in books? Not just a genre, but something really specific that they just can't deal with in their reading lives. So tell me, do you have topics in books you consistently avoid? Do you know why?

I don't have any answers for this, it's just something I'm actively curious about. Rikki is much more open minded than I am in this regard, so I'd like to hear from others! 

Cheers to the Weekend 3.3.18

Last night was our literary dinner party for Phantom of the Opera and we seriously can't wait to show you all the details, including a custom cocktail that So Many Damn Books created specifically for the book! We're so enjoyed our night of classic french food, gilded gothic decor, and bookish conversation. What are you guys up to this weekend?


Around the web

Feeling nostalgic? Check out these books that will take you back to the 80's!

We are really enjoying seeing everyone post about what's on their unread shelves and the books they're most looking forward to reading this year.

Check out this release calendar of highly anticipated YA reads coming out in March!

Sarah always has the best thoughts on the BOTM selections each month.



We absolutely love Sarah's lovely, comfortable at the table photos. Fresh flowers, books, and sunlight is basically our love language.

Another Sarah, she has the loveliest moody literary lifestyle photos that remind us of our own moody landscape.

Beata has a darling gray kitty and mixes styled and lifestyle so well. A great source of inspiration!


Wrap Up | February 2018

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The Year of Living Danishly | Helen Russell- I've been meaning to read this for about a year, so I finally pulled it off the shelf and really quite enjoyed it. This book is very statistic/research heavy; much more than I expected, but the narrative style still carries it along smoothly enough. I laughed out loud in some places and learned a lot about the philosophy that guides Danish life and why it fosters such happy people, as well as some of the downsides to their society. I'm endlessly interested in other cultures and places, so if you are too, this will be a good pick. 

Force of Nature | Jane Harper- If you loved The Dry, this next installment will be well worth picking up. It has that same style of short, cliff-hanger-y chapters and perfectly paced plotting as the clues unfurl. It's not as focused on Aaron Faulk personally and is a drastically different story, so fair warning. I personally wish there had been more Aaron in it, but it was still really well done. Its been weeks since I read it and it's still haunting my brain a bit. Full disclosure, I was gifted this advanced copy by the publisher, but my opinion is wholly my own.

The Adulterants | Joe Dunthorne- This was such an unusual book. It definitely didn't inspire warm fuzzy feelings, but it wasn't meant to. The characters are so interesting and flawed and relatable, the plot is dramatic without being totally outlandish, and it's a quick, quirky read. It made me laugh and cringe in all the best ways. If you need something outside the lines of mainstream fiction this is solid.

The Bear and the Nightingale | Katherine Arden- I really loved this, actually! I thought it was well written, had a lovely gradual build, and the magic increased at just the right pace; it reminded me of Neil Gaiman a bit. I loved the warm family dynamics and the great set-up it did for the series to continue. The ending was a little anti-climactic, but the weaving of fairytale themes into something new and interesting was superb. I'm excited to start the next book ASAP.

The Phantom of the Opera | Gaston Leroux- Our dinner party pick for February and a classic! If you've seen the movie or the play, the plot is very similar, but the book feels much more gothic/horror tinged than the musical. The Phantom in the novel is sinister and less romanticized, while Raoul is frankly spineless, but I thought this was a fascinating story, with tense pacing and lovely imagery. Be mindful of which translation you pick up, and if you're a fan of the music, expect it to play in your head the entire time you're reading!



Talking As Fast As I Can | Lauren Graham - I really didn't think I'd be into this book very much. In general, I'm just not interested in celebrity books. Instantly, however, I was comforted by Lauren's familiar voice (on audio) from all my (admitted) years of watching Gilmore Girls (see: I first watched in 2004). An important consideration in how much I enjoyed this book is that I listened to it on audio and so much of what I laughed at were her inflections and personality that went into. Overall, it was mildly interesting and quite entertaining, I particularly loved "Old Lady Jackson".

I Am I Am I Am | Maggie O'Farrell - Loved is not an accurate adjective to describe one's feelings toward this book. It just doesn't fit well for me. It's haunting. Well done. Not an ounce of sympathy or "look at me!" in these 17 stories of near-death experiences. All rather matter-of-factly-written accounts that leave you turning page after page, nearly holding your breath, and gasping "WOW" at the end. One of the most intriguing memoirs to date. Full disclosure, I was gifted this advanced copy by the publisher, but my opinion is wholly my own.

Into the Wild | Jon Krakauer - I hadn't known, prior to starting this story, the intense controversy surrounding Chris McCandless' actions and subsequent death. His story is incredible, and oddly, reminds me of characters found in the works of Steinbeck. A man who, despite his intelligence, could not conform to society, whose mind reaches into depths many can't understand, and seeks a life of simplicity and honesty that doesn't exist anymore. His will was stronger than common sense at times. And what it all comes down to is that he wanted the very stripped down version of life. It would seem that Krakauer has a similar mentality, as do many others he included in this story to bring a difficult understanding to light on McCandless. Sad, but great story, on a troubled yet intelligent man. Such is life.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry | Gabrielle Zevin - I picked this book up at our Bookstagram meet up book swap. I was needing a break and something fun to read; this was perfect! The story was quick, easy to read, had great literary references, and pulled at the heart strings a little bit. Great story!

The Hate U Give | Angie Thomas - Another YA book for class. I'd been holding off on reading it, because I needed a solid break from YA, plus the hype had me feeling unsure. I'll be the first to admit this book blew me away. I had no idea what to expect and the hype is totally worth it. For a debut novel, Thomas did a phenomenal job at giving an inside look at a sad truth in our current society. I'm looking forward to reading more of her novels. 

The Phantom of the Opera | Gaston Leroux - I'm actually a little surprised how enjoyable this book was for me. It came off satirical in the "horror" scenes and left me more humored than anything. Phantom is a creatively written love story, with great dialogue scattered throughout that keeps the pace going strong. I've never seen the film, so I'm looking forward to following up with that soon. 

My Kitchen Year | Ruth Reichl - This was one of our picks from Anne of What Should I Read Next. I had this book on my counter from the library for about a week. I barely flipped through it. Then, I came across it on audio and wondered how on earth a cookbook would translate. Surprisingly, it was done well, but speed up the reading pace, Ruth is a painfully slow narrator otherwise. I really loved that Ruth narrated the book herself. She includes personal stories that lead up to each recipe, detailing her life after Gourmet magazine closed down. While she reminds of Ina Garten, in that you should only use the best seasonal items the world has to offer ($$$), I do look forward to trying some of the more toned down recipes. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches anyone? I laughed at that one. Ruth's own love affair with cooking is so engaging, it makes you want to fall in love with cooking yourself, if you aren't already.


Courtney | @wordsthatsing_


Hi readers! I'm Courtney and I currently live in New England with my husband and our rescue cat, Sicily, after 4 years in Southern California. I've been an avid reader since I was very young. I love reading historical fiction, poetry, memoirs, and cookbooks but will really venture into any genre for a good story! Professionally, I am the Community Outreach Advisor for a popular New England food website and I also write for a professional services company where I work with clients to help them achieve their career goals. Aside from reading, I love being outdoors, practicing yoga, drinking good coffee, and cooking for friends and family. Thank you to Rikki and Michaela for allowing me to share my February reads! 


First Comes Love | Emily Giffin - I love Emily Giffin's books because they often have an unexpected twist or deal with complicated relationship dynamics. First Comes Love follows two sisters in the aftermath of a tragedy and explores how each sister deals with their pain in different ways. The characters face some interesting, challenging decisions, which kept me interested until the end. I found it difficult to relate to the animosity and strain between the sisters, but sometimes unlikeable characters make for an interesting read. 

Reading People | Anne Bogel - I'm a huge fan of Anne Bogel and love her podcast, What Should I Read Next, so I was really looking forward to reading her book, Reading People about personality types. Anne gives an overview of various personality frameworks in such an accessible way that the book feels like an intimate conversation with a friend about how to utilize the frameworks to our advantage. There is a a lot we can learn about ourselves from each framework, and although it can be uncomfortable to objectively view your strengths and weaknesses, it is a valuable practice. Anne gives you the tools you need to identify your type and then use the corresponding information to strengthen yourself and your relationships. I loved this one.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop | Veronica Henry - You know the cozy feeling you get when you watch You've Got Mail even though you know how it ends? That's how I felt reading this book. Although it is somewhat predictable; it is warm, heartfelt, and delightful. I loved reading about the different relationships and how they all unfold against the backdrop of Nightingale Books. It takes place in a small countryside town outside London and will likely evoke a strong desire to visit your favorite little bookshop. Sometimes you just want a heartfelt, lighter read and this book fits the bill.

Devotions | Mary Oliver - This collection showcases over 400 pages of Mary Oliver's best poetry from the past 50+ years. If you aren't familiar with Mary Oliver, her poems are like love letters to nature. When I read Mary Oliver, I am inspired to slow down and truly appreciate the nature that surrounds us every day. Her writing is profound and inspiring. Since she writes about something we all experience, nature and its beauty, her collection, Devotions, is a great place to begin if you'd like to incorporate more poetry into your reading life. This collection took my breath away.


We're still getting back into the swing of things around here, so thanks for your patience as we continue to find our footing!

We have our dinner party for Phantom of the Opera on Friday, so that will be up next week and we can't wait to see it come together and show off some details, as well as a fun collaboration with So Many Damn Books.

Our first bookstagram meet up was a definite success, you can see the books everyone bought to swap and much more about the event right over here. We will definitely be hosting another one sometime soon!

Michaela Devine Comments
10 Books You Can Go Live In This Winter

As we move past the holiday rush and the New Year, we find ourselves suddenly thrust into the middle of winter, and with quite a bit more time on our hands while we wait for spring. This tends to be the hardest stretch of winter for us; when spring is in sight, but still so miserably far away. To beat the winter blues there's nothing we love more than a big, cozy book to go live in for a while, and ignore the drizzly gray (or snow, lately!) outside. You can find us curled up on the couch with blankets, tea, and these books until the sun returns!

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1. Anna Karenina | Leo Tolstoy- This is one of my very favorite books of all time. It's chunky, immersive, and dramatic. You get glimpses of rural Russian life, glittering society parties, family dynamics, love affairs, and tragedies all in one big book that will swallow you up. Be mindful of which translation you pick up though; there are some duds out there!

2. The Once and Future King | T. H. White- If you're a fan of Arthurian legend, this is the book for you. One of the most epic love stories of all time, and one of the most cutting betrayals plays out on the page against a backdrop of knights, kings, magic, and prophecies. What more could you want?

3. Harry Potter | J.K. Rowling - This is pretty much the ultimate comfort re-read for most of us, but if you haven't read it it's a huge, magical (hah!) series full of delightful details, great characters, and a brilliantly complex plot. It's lucky the series is so long, because the pages absolutely fly by. 

4. Lord of the Rings | J. R. R. Tolkien- If you've only seen the movies, it's time to dive into the books. They're big, but they read quickly, I swear. There is so much happening in these, but they're easy to follow and completely absorbing. Plus, Tolkien does world building like no one else. The third book is by far my favorite, and always makes my heart swell past capacity with all the feels. 

5. Middlemarch | George Eliot- This is on my TBR for this year and looks like it's set to explore major themes of humanity through a cast of characters all in the fictional town of Middlemarch. I love books where multiple storylines weave and cross, so I'm really looking forward to picking this up and hibernating in it; i've heard Eliot writes with exceptional warmth and wisdom, which sounds about perfect for these cold months! P.S isn't this edition gorgeous?!


11/22/63 | Stephen King- This is also on my unread shelf and I've heard nothing but rave reviews for it's intricacy and it's well done romance. It's enormous and I'm very much looking forward to getting lost in this historical time travel novel. I really want to watch the mini-series, but am holding off till I get through the book!

American Gods | Neil Gaiman- We are both huge fans of Gaiman and this book is no exception. It's such a unique concept and is in turns unsettling, strange, wonderful, and gasp worthy. There's angry gods, tourist traps, road trips, the ugliness of technology, and old, deep magic all at play here. Gaiman explores American culture and all the tangled bits that comprise it brilliantly. Again, there is a mini-series out recently that was shockingly well done if you need some Netflix in your life.

Winter's Tale | Mark Helprin- If you're in the mood for a hefty tome of gorgeous, glitteringly beautiful prose, this is for you. It's snow covered New York, and impossible loves, and wispy tendrils of magic, spanning generations and crossing genres as it blends historical fiction and fairytales into one big beautiful package.

Jane Eyre | Charlotte Brontë- A cozy favorite of ours, Jane is such a great heroine who overcomes so much. It's definitely a classic for a reason and if you haven't read it yet, you should. We're certain most of you have encountered or heard of this book at some point so we're simply adding our voices to the chorus of it's admirers. 

The Book Thief | Markus Zusak- Beloved by pretty much everyone, this book is huge, but is an effortless read thanks to its lyrical prose and a good dose of levity. It's got a highly unusual narrator who follows the life of a girl who loves books, and goes to great lengths to preserve them against the backdrop of Germany during WWII. Heartbreaking and beautiful in equal measure and well worth picking up. 

What are your favorite big books to pass the winter evenings with? 

Our First Bookstagram Meetup

We finally hosted a much anticipated Bookstagram Meetup in Tacoma. I've honestly been avoiding Michaela's mentions of it, because I'm too introverted for hosting such an event. I need more to do than talk, and this sort of thing is all talk. Thankfully, it was all about books, and that's an easy topic to cover. Since I had my baby girl last fall, I ran out of excuses to postpone the meetup, so we finally scheduled a date, made the announcement, and here we all are! 

We got there early and settled in to meet everyone. We laughed about how no one would show up, but it would be okay, because we'd just consider it a girl date. We don't do much without our kids in tow. We didn't have to worry about it too much though, because these lovely ladies strolled in one by one, and we proceeded to talk for four non-stop hours, closing the place down. We peeled ourselves away for the drive home and anticipation of the work week starting the following day.

For those few hours, we felt completely surrounded by our people. How had we never met these women before? As our guards went down, we shared about our lives, about spouses, work, social media, and our beloved books. We brought some books to swap, to talk about, and felt pretty excited for our common interests.

At one point, a man asked if we were a bible study group. No offense at all, but we laughed so hard. "No," we replied. Before we could respond further, another man said, "Can't you see, they're Oprah's book club!" We laughed even harder that time and said, "Yeah, something like that." I suppose our large stack of books was a little out of place, but it was our identifier and talking point, if needed. 

It was a surreal experience to put faces to the people we talk to on social media. It was a really great experience. It was better than we could've imagined, actually, and we hope, of course, to see them all again! 

Thanks so much for coming out to hang with us Kaitlin, Sam, Christine, Shusma, and Laura!

Rikki Rivera Comments
Warm Family Novels for Cold Winter Evenings

We're officially past the halfway point for winter! Spring feels so close, but we know, realistically, we still have several weeks (or more) of wet, gloomy weather here in the PNW before we see temperatures rise and the sun peek out from behind it's gray wall again. 

There are times when we look to books for escape, but in this season we are leaning into all the warmth, and goodness, and fuzzy family feels in our real lives and our reading lives, and craving novels that reflect that. If you're in the same place and need to just dive into some cozy, delightful books with families that feel nourishing instead of dysfunctional, check these out!

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Little Women | Louisa May Alcott - If you haven't read this yet, this is the perfect season for it. You'll find old fashioned family life, cozy holiday scenes, romance, and the spirit of giving. Plus, how precious is this BabyLit version?!


Pride and Prejudice | Jane Austen - Family is front and center in this story, full of togetherness, realistic dynamics that are charming despite their missteps, and the fir belief that you can wait to find the one whom you choose to love. Plus another adorable BabyLit edition.


A Man Called Ove | Fredrik BackmanIf you're looking for something a little different, this story ended up being so heartwarming and altogether charming, and is depicted equally well on film. While it starts with a grumpy old man, the story of his past and present as they dovetail together is warm, hopeful, and humbling.


The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet | Becky Chambers - Science Fiction isn't generally thought of as a "warm" genre, but this book is genuinely the warmest, most delightful book I've read all year. The story focuses on the crew of the Wayfarer and they all function together essentially as a "found family". A variety of relationships are represented, and each one is handled with shocking tenderness.


Anne of Green Gables | L.M. Montgomery -  A beloved classic that ends up on so many shelves, and seems to be one of the most revisited stories of our time. I've begun sharing this story with my daughter who adores it too.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society | Mary Ann Shaffer - Sometimes family doesn't mean blood relations, and this story shows just how much friends can be all the family you need, even when adding a perfect stranger into the mix that brings you back together again.


What are your favorite warm family novels? We admit, it was kind of difficult to find very many; much of literature focuses on dysfunctional families instead. Any great recommendations for us, cause we'd love to have more in our lives!

Wrap Up | January 2018

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The Magicians | Lev Grossman- I didn't love this one. It's an interesting premise but it's hollow somehow. The book breezes through 4 years of magical education in 200 pages with minimal world building, with only one fleshed out character who isn't very likable, then jumps to the second half of the book which is wholly different. On top of that the plot feels....empty, disjointed, and weirdly paced. There's no emotional resonance here and I won't continue the series. I hate when books have great potential and just don't quite get there.

Also, side note on the show: whaaaaattt is even happening? I'm 3 episodes in, is it worth continuing?

Spinning | Tillie Walden- Another graphic novel memoir, and easily my favorite since This One Summer. The tone of this was a little more straightforward and realistic, less dreamy and complex than This One Summer, but it was beautifully illustrated and her story was compelling and real. Plus I learned a lot about competitive ice skating, which was actually super interesting. 

Provenance | Ann Leckie- I wanted to love this one, I picked it up because it was compared to The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet, and I can see why: the tone is somewhat similar and some of the broader concepts are comparable, but this one was not nearly as well written and entirely plot driven at the expense of the characters. It's also one of those books that drops you in the middle of the action with no background or explanation, and expects you to figure it out. Normally that's fine, but since this plot is all about political machinations, some background would have helped to deepen the plot and made the book a much better read. Overall, meh. 

All Our Wrong Todays | Elan Mastai- I actually thought this was pretty much the perfect fluff novel; it was kind of as if Dark Matter and Back to the Future had a sassy love-child. I loved the tone and the fast pace, and the fact that there was some interesting concepts and solid characters in it, though there were some problematic bits as well. It also does that rare thing where the books writing matures at an appropriate pace as the main character matures, and ends up being quite well done. If I don't think too critically about it, I can definitely appreciate it for the fun ride that it is. 

The Heart's Invisible Furies | John Boyne- This one didn't quite live up to the hype for me. It felt very lackluster for the first half, and it couldn't seem to decide what it's tone was, wry? witty? serious? ridiculous? But the second half it came together and hit it's stride much better. It covered some good ground, and though the ending was predictable and tidy,  it was a decent read. This just won't be on my favorites list. 

Persuasion | Jane Austen- Oh Jane Austen! This book FLEW by and Austen's trademark humor and warmth shone through the entire thing. It was a tad more serious than some of her others, and won't unseat Emma as my favorite, but it was lovely to be back with a beloved author. 

I Am I Am I Am | Maggie O'Farrell- My first 5 star read of the year and one that left me a little stunned and shivery when I closed it. This memoir explores Ms. O'Farrell's life through a series of her near death experiences that are brilliantly woven together and work to explore larger concepts while maintaining a really life-affirming, if tense, tone. The entire book was taut and beautiful and a little heartbreaking, but also proud and strong, and complex, and interesting. Stunning. This one is going to haunt me for a long time. Full disclosure, I was gifted this copy by the publisher, but my opinion is wholly my own.



Animal Farm | George Orwell - My husband recommended I read this story, and so I did. It's short, satirical account of the 1917 Russian Revolution is incredibly creative and well told, although a sad truth and reality of that time. I'm morbidly fascinated that such monsters are able to rise to power in our world, this story details that well, even if from an animal perspective.

American Gods | Neil Gaiman - I find this book to be a completely satirical perspective on American culture as seen from an outsider perspective. Originally from England, Gaiman lived in America for 9 years, before going to Ireland to write this story. It's offensive, creative, and long... but very good. This was the first of his books I read years ago, and decided to re-read before watching the show. This book won't be for everyone, but you have to credit his ability to create the most interesting conversations written in literature (something I commonly find dull).

The Stranger | Albert Camus - A short and profound classic, I found this story to be rather absurd, as I'm sure it's meant to be. It's well written and somewhat interesting, but nonsensical and sad.

The Magnolia Story | Chip & Joanna Gaines - A great, real life motivational story of this sweet couple. I'm a fan of learning about people, and seeing just how unique everyone's story is. They've shared a lot of their lives and have done a great deal for their family and for their hometown. I grew up with a similar work hard mentality, and I certainly admire their hard work and dreams that have lead to their success.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe | Benjamin Alire Saenz - I'm taking a 'Teaching YA Lit' class this quarter, so all the upcoming YA you see here will be because of that. I enjoyed this story quite a bit, at least the first two-thirds of it. It's about two wayward Mexican boys who become friends. I really enjoyed Ari's introverted character and simplistic nature. His angst had more depth, and because of it, that makes YA much more tolerable to me. I also found it intriguing how Saenz worked in the complications of "coming out" as a young homosexual. There was a lot to that for Dante, but it fell incredibly short for Ari. I didn't like the end.

Eleanor & Park | Rainbow Rowell - I enjoyed this story, with a lot to resonate with in the difficulties of youth, so none of it really seemed all that far fetched or overly dramatic for me. This was Rowell's debut novel and I find it to be an interesting first story to write. It's banned, with some crass language and mention of "inappropriate" things, but nothing you might not face in real life. The ending leaves you wanting more, but as Rowell said, "...I don’t believe that 17-year-olds get happy endings. They get beginnings." And this story was merely one chapter for them.

Ashley's War | Gayle Tzemach Lemmon - What can I say about one of the most incredible stories ever depicted of the most brave, heroic women of our time?! That Ashley's story will likely haunt me for all time. She was four months younger than me, and she deployed nearly two years after I left the Army. I understood it all, felt it all again, and my heart broke for everyone who knew and loved her. She's a woman you have to not think of in sadness at her loss, but in happiness at her life. Gayle's research was incredible and she wrote of the experiences for women in the military so well.

Ask the Passengers | A.S. King - The ONLY reason I finished this book is because it's on my reading list for school. I get that this story is all about the struggle to embrace equality, specifically with same sex relationships. But this book is everything I dislike about YA. The stereotype of how teenagers act and talk is what makes YA most unenjoyable. The seemingly forced attempt to be genuine is in itself not genuine. The constant "or somethings" and insane curse words *insert eye roll here*. The tie in with philosophy was actually pretty cool, but didn't fit in, or make sense, until the later part of the story. I want to say this could've been better, but I'm not sure I can even fairly say that. 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix | J.K. Rowling - I'm thrilled to be actually getting through Harry Potter. I have really liked all the books leading up to this one. While book 5 is still great, it seems unnecessarily long. Like, how many things can we fit into the first 600 pages before we get to the why of everything and wrap it up quickly at the end?! The excitement from the start has to last you about 200 pages, then not until the halfway point does it pick up again. I'm looking forward to being done with this one, because 800 pages was a killer! 

Other Notes

We're hosting our first ever Bookstagram meet up on February 11th! We are so excited to meet fellow readers for a casual book swap, drinks, and good conversation! Feel free to message us for info!

Page One Books | Valentine's Bundle Experience

Subscription boxes have exploded in the last couple of years, but so many of them are just filled with...stuff. Which, frankly isn't our style. But give us a subscription box that offers a true experience? Yes, please!


Page One Books recently gifted us their Valentine's box bundle to check out for ourselves. When we were opening the box together, my husband said, "So the idea is that a guy gets this for his girl, if she's into books?" - Yes. "That's actually a really great idea. And costs as much as anything else you'd get." Exactly! 

What a wonderful thing, to have such a talented small business creating such unique, perfectly giftable experiences! The opportunity to treat your loved one, or yourself, to a bookish box of goodies that is just right for the holiday or season, is priceless.


When first opening the box, you're greeted with a cheerful list of all the goodies contained, and a fluffy pink mass of individually wrapped presents. It is so fun, and so welcoming; it was a perfect presentation. 


Once we finished delighting over each item, it was time to put them into action and set up a memorable experience. You all know how much we love to create a great atmosphere around here, and this was a perfectly delivered piece of self-care on a gray drizzly PNW afternoon.


How can any lady (or gentleman) resist enjoying a relaxing warm bubble bath, glass of wine, candles, and a great book? Imagine the look on their face when you surprise them with a setup like this for Valentine's day (or any day, really)! It's an opportunity to take those last minute flowers and chocolates to the next level, and you can use our discount code ARDENT15 if this box looks like something that would delight the book lover in your life.

Hey husbands, are you seeing this?! :) hint, hint!


Thank you so much, Page One Books for this fantastic gift! We were absolutely thrilled to explore the contents and see, first hand, the thought and effort put into it. Well done!

*We were sent this box in exchange for an honest review, and of course, all opinions are wholly our own, and you can see our policy right here