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.


Reading and writing recap: 2017 thus far

We're just over halfway through with the year so I thought I'd do a little recap of how my reading and writing has been going this year. 

Reading

So far, I've read 41 books (or 43 according to GoodReads, not sure what my paper list is missing). I started to keep track of some with the hashtag #nicolelovesbooks on Instagram but since I read so many on Kindle (thru Overdrive/the library), I don't end up getting pics of many of the books I read. But I have done better at recording my books read on paper as well as on GoodReads, and I love having a pretty list to look at and reminisce about all the lovely books I've read. It's been a good reading year so far, with lots more to go. 

My currently reading/TBR includes: Present Over Perfect, Big Magic, The Girl from Everywhere (about a time traveling YA pirate girl), A Snicker of Magic, For Darkness Shows the Stars (a YA dystopian Persuasion re-dux), Ginny Moon, Echo, Some Kind of Happiness, At Home in the World, Much Ado About Anne, Chasing Slow, and Border Odyssey (stories from the US/Mexico border). My upcoming book club selection is an Agatha Christie, which will be my first of hers. And of course, the TBR list grows daily it seems. (So many books, so little time!)

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Around the fam-- David read and enjoyed Ready Player One (he liked it more than me but I am looking forward to the movie) and just started The Hunger Games (!!). The fact that he's reading more has me all swoony. ;) Gigi is reading lots (recently The Babysitters Club (originals and new graphic versions), The Mother-Daughter Book Club, Little Women (my childhood abridged copy) and lots more, and Brody has been devouring Magic Tree House books in order, along with lots of graphic novels, and most recently some of the easier Matt Christopher (who's actually a lady!) baseball books, like this one

Writing

In addition to my quarterly posts at The Art of Simple and what's become almost that infrequent here on my blog, I've been writing a lot (well, a lot for me). I finished my middle grade novel manuscript and have been editing and revising that and now I'm ready to submit it to Pitch Wars, a really cool contest and community. I've written a query letter and a synopsis and I have a couple more weeks to polish those up before entering in early August. 

My next project is flourishing in my mind but I haven't quite found/made the time to do much in the way of concrete outlining/plotting yet. It's a YA and I am really excited about bringing these characters' stories to life. 

{sometimes when you have a creepy dream and wake up early, you have to redeem the time and get to work!}

{sometimes when you have a creepy dream and wake up early, you have to redeem the time and get to work!}

Podcasts

If you're a reader, I'm sure you already know and love the What Should I Read Next? podcast, but another fun one I found recently is Overdue. Each episode the two hosts discuss one book, so I've downloaded a bunch about books I've read and they're quite entertaining. As for writing, I have been really loving the diyMFA podcast. Although, now that it's summer I'm pretty behind on my podcast listening-- something to look forward to when I'm driving to school and practices more in the fall. 

One last note...

I think I'll try to send a newsletter in the early fall with more thoughts on this, but after much prayer and consideration we decided to send Gigi to public school for 5th grade. She is thrilled. I'll still be homeschooling (part-time) Brody and Hallee for 1st and 2nd grade, which should be fun.

Hope you're enjoying your summer!

Disclosure: this post has affiliate links in it. Thanks for your support!

YA, KidLit, cyborgs, & more {reading update!}

what i'm reading 2016 It was a good summer of reading! Now that we've entered fall, I thought it was time to update the ol' reading list here on the blog. I had a lot of fun with the audioblog in my last book update and after so good feedback, I decided to do another one. This audioblog will be available in my free newsletter, which will hit inboxes on Saturday, October 29th. (The newsletter is meant to be seasonal, but as it turns out this will be my first one of 2016-- oops!).

Read More Coverget the scoop

If you haven't already signed up, you can do so here. When you sign up, you will receive a free copy of my eBook, Read More, and you will also have access to my second audioblog... where I discuss all these books including which series has surprised me most (which will hit inboxes soon)!

So without further adieu, here is what I've been reading lately:

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I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've read any of these books! And don't forget you can listen to all my thoughts on these in my audioblog which will arrive via email on Saturday morning, Oct. 29, 2016. If you're reading this post after the newsletter goes out, just send me a quick email (hello @ nicolevbennett . com) and I'll forward it to you! :)

This post includes affiliate links; thank you for reading and for your support.

Summer book club: Eight Hundred Grapes

Our lovely little book club met again this summer; this time to discuss the novel Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave. sebastopol-ca

I really loved this book, not in the least due to my personal experience with the setting. The book takes place in the Northern California town of Sebastobol, which just happens to be the area where David grew up. He lived in Santa Rosa as a kid and went to an adorable little school in Sepastopol, so we have visited up there several times, and it's a beautiful place. It was very easy for me to picture the setting in my head, and I have a tendency to love a good setting like a character.

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We had a charming night discussing the book out on my back patio under the twinkle lights. Our book-themed meal was one of our best yet, so thanks Ms. Dave, for putting so many yummy things in your book! As usual we didn't all feel the same about the book but we had a great conversation around the story, theme, and character's choices.

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If you're curious about my book club, and are thinking about starting your own, I have just the resources for you. In addition to the post I wrote a while back on Mom Advice, I was a guest on The Simple Show podcast this summer and discussed my book club with my friend Tsh Oxenreider.

Disclosure: This post has affiliate links; thanks for your support and for reading!