2018 Reading Faves

Happy 2019, blog friends! A friend of mine asked for a list of the best books I read last year, so that she could have a jumping-off point for getting back into reading, so I decided, why not post it on the ol’ blog for all of y’all to see.

I went through my list of 100 books that I read in 2018, and these were all my 5-star reads. I’m a fairly liberal 4- and 5-star giver so this isn’t a small list. But I’m pretty happy about having read so many books I loved last year.

They are listed in the order I read them, within their categories. As you’ll see (which, you already know, if you know me at all), this is a very YA-heavy list, as that’s my go-to favorite kind of book, and also what I’m currently writing. Within YA, my tastes are varied, but— I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s the last category on the list. ;)

Without further adieu, here they are. And these are Amazon affiliate links, so if you click them, and then buy anything from Amazon, you support my writing, for which, I thank you!

Nonfiction Faves

Cookbook: Artisan Sourdough Made Simple // Emilie Raffa // This book changed my life. I had already been baking with sourdough for a couple of years, but this is exactly what the title says, simple. These recipes aren’t for long-fermented traditional breads, but her methods and recipes are hands down, the most accessible way to incorporate sourdough into my daily life. I read this cookbook cover-to-cover (which I rarely do), and I bake from it almost weekly, sometimes multiple times a week.

Christian Living: Crazy Busy // Kevin DeYoung // We read this with our church and I found a lot to be encouraged and convicted by in it.

Memoir: At Home in the World // Tsh Oxenrieder // Somehow, my friend Tsh seamlessly wove together the deep affection for home with wanderlust for the world in this memoir of her family’s 9-month long trip around the world. So good.

Education: The Book Whisperer // Donalyn Miller // This book, and its application in my kids’ schooling, changed the way I look at literature education and literacy. This is the education philosophy for reading that I never knew I always wanted. We are following an adapted version of her methods in our homeschool/classroom hybrid.

(Bonus: Advent Devotional: Come, Let Us Adore Him // Paul David Tripp // Will definitely read through this again for advent 2019.)

Middle Grade Faves

Brown Girl Dreaming (audio) // Jacqueline Woodson // Since this is a novel in verse, I loved listening to it to hear the proper rhythm of the poetry. Plus it was a beautiful book and an insightful look at an African-American experience in our country’s history.

Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets (reread) // JK Rowling // We continue with an HP-book-a-year as our winter family read-aloud. It obviously holds up in a reread. ;)

Kimchi & Calamari // Rose Kent // This is slotted as YA at the library, but I’d put it at high middle grade/early YA. It’s a great story of a Korean-born boy who was adopted into an Italian family, and has to do an ancestor report, and therefore starts really searching for his own identity for the first time in his life.

The Penderwicks at Last // Jeanne Birdsall // (5-star series!) I could not have loved the conclusion to this beloved series more.

Adult Fiction Faves

Apparently I didn’t read a lot adult fiction that I loved this year, although there were quite a few 3- and 4-star reads on my list.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (screenplay) // JK Rowling // I enjoyed the movie, and then loved reading the screenplay a few months later.

The Cafe by the Sea / A Very Distant Shore / The Endless Beach // Jenny Colgan // These are books in a series about the fictional Mure Island in Scotland. I love Jenny Colgan so no surprise that I loved these. There’s one more I haven’t read yet (a Christmas book).

YA Faves

And now for my favorite category! Side note: I’m pleasantly surprised to see that some of my favorite reads last year were written by authors of color or from other countries. It turns out part of that is that (when applicable) I really love reading about other cultures, and part of that is that these are just all darn good books.

How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You (reread) // Tara Eglington // I loved this one because it’s funny, a little cheesy, and just plain cute. And, as it’s a story about a girl trying to protect her first kiss for her perfect “prince", it’s a pretty clean read, too. I only wish it contained more Australian references as its author is Australian.

The Radius of Us // Marie Marquardt // An unlikely love story, and one character is an immigrant so I loved reading and learning about that experience.

The Case for Jamie // Brittany Cavallaro // Part of one of my favorite YA series, this is book 3 in the Charlotte Holmes series. Can’t wait for book 4 this year.

You Bring the Distant Near // Mitali Perkins // I don’t usually love generational sagas, but I did love this one, about several of the girls in an Indian-American family, following each of them in their respective teen years.

The Illuminae Files series (Illuminae / Gemina / Obsidio) // Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff // This series is probably my top rec of the year. I loved it’s unique format, fast pace, and intense relationships & conflict… in space. ;) Can’t wait for their next book/series.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love // Maurene Goo // A cute unlikely romance, my first exposure to K-dramas, and why do I love Korean culture so much suddenly? I don’t know, but I do.

Arc of the Scythe series (Scythe / Thunderhead) // Neal Shusterman // My love for this series completely took me by surprise. My advice to you is to not worry about the synopsis, and just dive in. Also, there is no pub date for book 3 yet and we ended on one of the biggest cliffhangers I’ve ever read, just sayin’.

Trouble series (Trouble is a Friend of Mine, Trouble Makes a Comeback, Trouble Never Sleeps) // Stephanie Tromly // I reread books 1 and 2 this year before reading book 3 and it completely held up and I loved them all so much. Think Veronica Mars meets Sherlock with a kickass hodgepodge (read: slightly strange) group of friends.

Sky in the Deep // Adrienne Young // I wasn’t expecting to like a viking fantasy so much, but because I follow and love the author I gave it a try, and I loved it. While action-packed, it was also a slow-burn in many ways. Looking forward to the companion novel.

Anna & the French Kiss // Stephanie Perkins // Loved the setting, loved St. Clair, loved the friendship and relationship drama. Part of a trilogy of related/companion books that I also read, but this was my fave.

Unearthed // Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner // This book is a YA Indiana Jones-Lara Croft mashup. These are 2 things David and I love, so I immediately handed it to him after I loved it. He reads incredibly slow because of sports (insert shrug emoji) so he’s still working on it but he’s really enjoying it, too. The sequel just came out and I’m on the library waiting list. ;)

Caraval (reread) // Stephanie Garber // I personally didn’t love the sequel as much as this one, but I think I actually liked Caraval even better the 2nd time I read it. Looking forward to the finale this year (and yes, it’s called Finale).

Ignite Me (of the Shatter Me Series, the rest of the series I gave 4 stars) // Tahereh Mafi // Do not read this series if you can’t handle too much YA angst. Parts of the series were even a bit whiny/angsty for my tastes, but I loved this one SO much that it made the rest of them well worthwhile for me. There’s another book coming out this year which I will devour as soon as I can.

Renegades // Marissa Meyer // It’s possible I will love anything she writes, as evidenced by the fact that this was the first superhero book I’ve ever read, and I (surprise) loved it, along with Archenemies which is a 2018 consolation because I read most of it last year and then finished in 2019. Book 3 comes out in November (dang it).

Daddy Long Legs // Jean Webster // I think this was one of the only classics I read this year, oddly enough. This book is so cute and funny, and one of my all-time favorite books (Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay) is a retelling of it, so it was about time for me to read it. (Bonus: it’s a classic, so it’s only 99 cents on Kindle!)

The Way You Make Me Feel // Maurene Goo // This was about a food truck in LA (so win-win for me) and more fun Korean culture glimpses, friendship, family relationships, and a sweet romance.

My Lady Jane // Cynthia Hand, Brodi Aston, & Jodi Meadows // This book was a fantastic historical fantasy that sounds absurd but is sweet, funny, romantic, and did I mention funny? Perfect timing for me because we studied the time period of Edward/Elizabeth/et al this year in history. I can’t wait to read the rest of their books but first I have to read Jane Eyre (I know, I’m the worst classic lit fan, right?) before I can read My Plain Jane.

Whew! So there you have it! I hope that gives you some good book recs for 2019, Amanda, and others. Happy reading and let me know if you love any of my 5-star reads as well. If you’d like, you can see all the books I read last year on GoodReads, and of course, follow me on Bookstagram for the all the latest.


Why it’s okay to be in a reading slump in November (or, my history with NaNoWriMo)

This month, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, which is a month-long writing challenge to write a 50,000-word novel (or part of a novel) in the month of November (The name stands for National Novel Writing Month). So while the library books stack up (and oh, how I want to read them), I’m trying to do more writing than reading this month as I draft my new YA novel. It’s a currently-untitled YA rom-com, and I’m really excited about it.

As October wrapped up, I realized I was feeling like I was in a bit of a reading slump because I had started two books that were on the bigger side but that I was slow getting into. Well, I’m still wading through those, and while I like them both, I still feel like I’m slumping a bit (we’re eight days into November and I haven’t finished a book yet!).

But I’m okay with it because if I want to meet that crazy word count, it’s better for me to get sucked into my own project right now than a book that I can’t put down, right?. (On the other hand, I keep starting new books, probably because I can’t help looking for the next book that I can’t put down. I can’t help myself.)

NaNoWriMo pairs well with drinks of all kinds!

NaNoWriMo pairs well with drinks of all kinds!

In 2007, despite a cross-country trip home for over a week, and a 6-month old baby, I “won” NaNoWriMo, writing my first quasi-complete novel. I had always wanted to write before that, but that was the first year I actually finished a work of fiction (that project had lots of plot holes, and not much substance but hey, I did get to the end!). I feel nostalgic thinking back to the house we lived in (in another state) that year where I wrote that story.

Eight months later, I started blogging and dove headfirst into a different writing world. Nine years, and two more kids later, with blogging having slid a bit towards the back burner, I decided to try my hand at NaNoWriMo again with a middle grade book idea. I didn’t win, but I did finish it later. I gave it to Gigi for her birthday and queried it a bit, which was a good learning experience. For the next two years, NaNo kickstarted me into finishing another manuscripts (the YA one I’m currently querying), and now here I am again!

One of the best things about NaNo is connecting with other writer friends who are putting their heads down to try to cram in as many words as possible. In 2007, I met a writer friend who is one of the few people I’ve kept in touch with from our time living in Colorado, and this year, I have been connecting with fellow Bookstagrammers who are also doing NaNoWriMo. This project is such a unique writing experience that it’s fun to celebrate the high days and lament the low ones with other writers.

NaNoWriMo’s an endeavor that I recommend for every aspiring novelist to try at least once. For me, it’s been a special project, because it’s really what got me back to my dream of writing fiction, it gave me the gumption to go for it, even if I felt like I had not clue what I was doing.

Buy Scrivener 3 for macOS (Regular Licence)

It’s been a long time since I used an affiliate link here, but that’s something I’d like to bring back to the blog in small doses and I wanted to share that as far as writing goes, I’m completely in love with the Scrivener platform. This is the program I use for all my writing projects (pictured above next my holiday red cup). If you click my link and purchase it, I simply receive a small commission.

A favorite TV romance, all the love for A.Ham, and the rest of January 2018

Yay, it's my birthday month! (I always say that I feel like God knew I would love the treat of having my birthday in the middle of winter to help me get through since I'm such a summer-lover. Of course, we're not having very wintery weather this year anyway here, so I'm pretty content with winter right now....)

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Anyway! January 2018 has come and gone, and I thought it would be fun to do a little recap (feels like something from the "old" days of blogging). So here's the latest from my neck o' the woods (and kitchen tour coming soon!). 

Reading

I had a good start to the year, despite my goal of reading less this year (to make room for more creating & producing). Check out what I've been reading over on GoodReads

Writing

I am still loving my current project, which is a YA novel. I'm almost 30k words in and I feel like I'm getting into the exciting part so I find my characters ruminating in my mind a lot and beckoning me to come back to Scrivener and spend time unraveling their story more and more. I really only get time to work on writing during about half the week so I'm trying hard to dedicate myself to prioritizing it on those days when I can. 

Eating

Sourdough, sourdough, sourdough (can't stop, won't stop)! I'm thinking of curating my favorite resources and info and writing up a post about my sourdough journey. Stay tuned! Also, I recently re-fell in love with this soup

On a related note, does anyone else have anxiety about their favorite recipes living online? Every time I open a favorite pin and jump to someone's blog, I say to myself, I should really write this recipe down. So maybe that's a new 2018 goal. Because a couple of recipes I love have disappeared from the interwebs and I've had to ad-lib. Sad! 

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Wearing

Hopefully this isn't TMI but I just ordered my first Third Love bras and they are so nice! (Especially since it turns out I needed a 1/2 cup size, which explains why I normally have such a hard time finding a good fit.) Have you tried them? (If you want to try them out, too, you can use my referral code for $15 off (https://share.thirdlove.com/x/qvyUfr). That's what I did, too. Thanks, Melissa!)

Also, I got a new Dodgers shirt so I am ready for our Spring Training trip to Arizona.

Educating

You may have seen on IG that Gigi came back to the homeschool/charter school to join the other kids again. It's been a great two weeks of having everyone on the same schedule and having more time to pour into her heart again. We are approaching my favorite part of the Story of the World timeline (volume 2), and reading lots of good books these days. 

Watching & Listening

We are making our way through The Office (again) and I am again reminded how Jim and Pam's love story is one of my favorites ever. All the subtle looks and tension. Would that I could write romance like that. Also, that show is just so darn funny. (And it helps me cope with my inability to withstand such social awkardness like Michael creates.) Also Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix (!)-- We love him; glad he's back for more traveling and eating.

I saw Hamilton this month (THANK YOU MOM) and let's just say when my sister--in-law told me it would be life-changing, I sort of thought she was exaggerating, but nope! Nope, she was right. It was so amazing. I told my mom I might not want to ever see another musical. I'm sure that will pass (and I hope to see The Greatest Showman next week) in time, but I just can't get over Lin-Manuel's genius and how I feel all the emotions of it and the #immigrantsgetthejobdone way down deep in my heart. 

Also, Timeless comes back in March and my friend Rena gave me the season 1 DVD (early, accidentally, because I saw it in her room, LOL), and I will be rewatching that this month to prepare. 

I got way behind on podcasts over the holidays but I'm slowing catching up on my faves SortaAwesome and The Simple Show, and What Should I Read Next is, of course, always in my ear buds. When I need a gospel-kick-in-the-pants, my go-to is Risen Motherhood. Planning to listen to Launch with John August very soon, too.

As for music, I've been listening to lots of 90s music while I write, along with soundtracks, way too much Kidzbop for my liking (strongly considering a Spotify family account in the near future), and Havana, which I have all the heart ears (is that a thing?) for.

Bonus tidbit: it's been several years of long hair but I'm going to trim things up soon. Don't try to talk me out of it or show me pictures of Joanna Gaines because it's time. :) 

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Happy February!