2016 in Review


It’s been quite a year. I am rushing to finish up book #117 (The Queen of the Night, by Alexander Chee). When 2015 ended a year ago, I never imagined I would read so many books in the upcoming year. I ended last year with a total of 58, and thus set my reading goal for 2016 at 60 books. There are three major reasons that I almost doubled that number.

  1. My young children are now two and four years old. I have been having a massive reading slump since 2011. Pregnancy gives me an aversion to reading. I have no idea why. And then adjusting to two children in two years also affected my reading. We are finally in a longstanding routine and they are becoming more independent, which has all equaled out to more reading time.
  2. I discovered Litsy in June. If you haven’t heard of Litsy, I urge you to check it out. It’s a social media platform that combines Goodreads and Instagram. I can be hit or miss with social media, and I didn’t really see the point of Litsy when I first heard about it, but once I joined, I instantly got sucked up into the culture. It’s an amazing place–if you’re over there, my username is @reviewsbylola.
  3. I also discovered Book of the Month. BOTM was another thing that I was like eh, I don’t really need this. It’s a subscription service for books, and every month five new releases are handpicked by the judges. You get to choose which book you want them to send you for that month (or you can skip) and you can add on up to two additional books for $9.99 apiece. My thing was, five books sounds kind of limiting–I like choosing my own books, la la la la la. But I decided to get my mom a gift subscription for Mother’s Day and then two of my sisters and I got subscriptions as well, and we ended up become diehard devotees. I can’t even tell you the anticipation I feel on the first of every month when the new selections are released.

All of those reasons added up to being the best reading year I have ever had. I’m not talking quantity (although I am pretty sure this is my best year numbers wise too). I literally mean that this is the year when reading really came back to me. I feel like I found my place again, and my comfort. I also brought this blog back to life and discovered the Serial Reader app . . . I honestly don’t even know how 2017 can live up to this year but I’m excited to find out.

And last but not least, here are some of my favorite titles that I read in 2016.

  • Hellhound on His Trail, Hampton Sides
  • Working Stiff, Judy Melinek
  • A Mother’s Reckoning, Sue Klebold
  • Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon
  • Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted, Faye Resnick
  • Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld
  • I Let You Go, Clare Makintosh
  • Enchanted Islands, Allison Amend
  • Circling the Sun, Paula McLain
  • Flight of Dreams, Ariel Lawhon
  • Miller’s Valley, Anna Quindlen
  • Morgue, Vincent DiMaio
  • All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Bryn Greenwood
  • Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue
  • Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
  • Siracusa, Delia Ephron
  • When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
  • The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper, James Carnac
  • The Trespasser, Tana French
  • The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
  • The Fall Guy, James Lasdun
  • The Sun is Also a Star, Nicola Yoon

I’d love to hear how everyone else’s year was!


Book Review: Homegoing



Yaa Gyasi


305 pages


Homegoing is the story of two sisters. One, Effia,  is married to a British soldier that is involved in the slave trade, while the other sister, Esi, is actually sold into slavery. Homegoing follows the sisters and their descendants for 300 years, with each chapter focusing on family members from subsequent generations.

Effia’s ancestors stay in Africa, whereas Esi is shipped off to the United States, where the stories of her descendants continue on in various parts of the country.

My thoughts:

Unless you spent 2016 under a rock, you’ve seen Homegoing around. It was one of the big buzz books of the year and it seemed like everyone was reading it. So I had no choice in the matter, obviously.

Homegoing is a modern classic. Truly. I took an African Lit. class in college (my professor was a regal woman from Kenya who fascinated me. She was hands down my favorite professor from college) and as I read this book, I kept thinking that I could see this on a college syllabus. It has a lot to offer and the dual storylines added an interesting perspective.

The way Homegoing is broken up, into vignettes, was new for me and I appreciated that each person got a chance to tell their stories. They were all interesting, but some stuck out more for me than others. And holy crap, let me tell you–the family tree in the beginning of the book is something you must have for reference. I flipped back and forth to it countless times. I really appreciated that it was included because that many main characters, and all of them being related, just spells trouble for me.

I think it is very fitting that Homegoing will be my last review of 2016. I am so excited to see what amazing books 2017 has in store for us!

Book Review: Shelter



Jung Yun


336 pages


Kyung is a 30 something man struggling to keep his family afloat. He and his wife Gillian are financially drowning and unsure of how to rectify the situation when catastrophe hits. Kyung’s mother and father are brutally attacked in their own home close by, and suddenly everything changes. Kyung is now forced to care for the parents that he has resented his entire adult life. Their treatment of him as a child, and the treatment of his mother by his father is something that Kyung has not come to terms with, and instead he does his best to avoid both his parents and his memories.

The cultural aspect adds another element to the story, although ultimately this could be the story of any dysfunctional family. The Korean background of the Chos certainly aided the acceptance they all bore towards the domestic abuse that occurred amongst the family members, and Kyung’s mother, Mae Cho, especially seemed to be affected and victimized by her ethnic background.

My thoughts:

I heard so much hype about this book at one point that I resolved to read it before the end of the year. I love a good dysfunctional family as much as the next reader, and the Chos certainly deliver in that regard.

The family members are all so flawed and all, to some degree, want to dismiss their problems instead of facing them head on. First you have Kyung and Gillian, who have made such a mess of their finances that it was very difficult to feel sympathetic towards them. That, coupled with deep seeded issues they both had with their own families, caused the foundation of their marriage to completely break down, something that neither one wanted to acknowledge.

Then you have Kyung’s intense anger towards his parents. After the attack they endured, he struggled between caring for them and aiding in their recovery while still harboring resentment towards both of them. Kyung is not the type to talk about his feelings, so his anger continued to fester until it eventually bubbled over.

This is one of those books that didn’t wow me at the time–I thought it was just ok. I could see why others were impressed with it, but I just didn’t have that connection. However, now that it has been over a month since I read it, I feel a bit differently. The characters in the story and their relationships made a deeper impact on me than most other characters from other books. And that is something that makes a big impression on me.

So while I am not including Shelter as one of my favorite reads of 2016, I do think it is an important book.

Book Review: Library of Luminaries series


Library of Luminaries: Frida Kahlo

Zena Alkayat, Illustrated by Nina Cosford

Chronicle Books

128 pages







Library of Luminaries: Jane Austen

Zena Alkayat, Illustrated by Nina Cosford

Chronicle Books

128 pages


Frida Kahlo and Jane Austen are two of the four books in a series done by Chronicle Books. The series spotlights different famous women and chronicles their lives in a simplistic format. The text is accompanied by whimsical illustrations. The books are small–I would say about as tall and as wide as a slice of bread and they start from birth and continue on until death.

My thoughts:

I first saw these books a few months ago and loved the idea of an easy to digest biography with fun illustrations. I put in a request with my library that they purchase at least one or two (my library’s consortium didn’t own a single copy, which truthfully I have never had to request that they purchase a book before as they have always had at least one copy of what I’m looking for in the consortium). Much to my delight, my library purchased all four books. And apparently they are popular, as three were immediately checked out.

I started with Frida Kahlo, as it was the only one my library had. Admittedly, I knew nothing about Kahlo but I was blown away by her story. I loved learning about her childhood and her marital circumstances. I think that the bright, cultural clothes and furnishings she surrounded herself with really lent themselves to the format of an illustrated biography. The book took me less than 20 minutes to read cover to cover, but I would certainly love to read more about Kahlo in the future.


I eventually got my hands on Jane Austen and truthfully, it just wasn’t as vibrant to me as Kahlo’s. I enjoyed reading it, and Alkayat included excerpts from Jane’s letters, as well as those of her sister Cassandra, which really added to the book. Maybe had I gone in not knowing as much about Jane, and her books, I would have gotten more out of Jane Austen.


I love this series and definitely plan on reading the other two books (Virginia Wolf and Coco Chanel). I think these would be fantastic gifts and I also think they would be great additions to a children’s library, as the pictures are exciting and the biographies are easily digestible.


Book Review: The Mothers


The Mothers
Brit Bennett
Riverhead Books
278 pages


The Mothers is the story of Nadia Turner. Nadia is a teenager dealing with the death of her mother as well as her blossoming relationship with boyfriend Luke, the pastor’s son. Nadia and Luke are facing obstacles that greatly impact their romance, and they struggle to stay connected. Nadia turns to her peer Audrey and the two develop a deep bond that follows them into adulthood. The Mothers follows Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey in their formative years as they navigate adulthood.

My thoughts:

The Mothers is one of the breakout novels of 2016. I was instantly captivated by the cover and as the reviews came rolling in, I knew I absolutely had to read it. Then it was chosen for Book of the Month, so it went into my box with absolutely no hesitation.

I found it very difficult to believe that Brit Bennett is so young (I believe she is still in her 20s). Her talent is astounding. The gravity she gave her characters was so impressive, and she tackled such meaty issues. Mother-daughter relationships, abortion, infidelity–the list goes on and on. I found myself reading and thinking to myself “Yes, I have felt this way before” or “I know just what she’s feeling.”

In a way, I felt like I couldn’t quite reach the characters, as if I was outside looking in on them. That was really my only negative reaction to The Mothers, but it is the reason why I didn’t include it in my “best of 2016” category. Despite that, it is definitely a book to read. I am eagerly anticipating what Bennett does next!



Book Date: 12/19/16

untitledIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date. And here we are!

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away.  My sisters will be in town all week, and with all of next weekend being spent celebrating the holiday, I don’t anticipate much reading time. I love this time of year though, and I’m not looking forward to the long months after the holidays where winter seems to stretch on forever. We have had a long week of snow and freezing temperatures and the thought of enduring this for almost three more months is a little gloomy.

What I finished:


It appears as though I finished a lot this week, however it looks more ambitious than it was.

Library of Luminaries is a fun series that only take 10-20 minutes to read. Each book contains bite sized information about the subject and the fun, whimsical illustrations are a fantastic addition. I have now read two of the four books (Frida Kahlo being the other), and definitely plan on reading the other two eventually. It almost feels like cheating though to include these in my book count because they are such quick reads.

In a Dark, Dark Wood showed up in my Overdrive queue a week ago, after putting it on hold months ago. I really enjoyed The Woman in Cabin 10 over the summer, so I felt that this would be a quick, thrilling read. It certainly was. I would say I actually enjoyed Wood better for two reasons: it held my interest pretty much from the beginning and the protagonist wasn’t completely annoying. If you like psychological thrillers, this is a worthwhile one.

The Santa Claus Man was an interesting look at New York City a hundred years ago. It is the story of John Gluck, Jr. and his Santa Claus Association, which answered Santa’s mail and delivered toys to the children of NYC. It had a lot of insight into the time period and was a festive holiday read.

Down Among the Dead Man is one I finished right after I wrote last week’s post. It was a pretty good read if you are morbidly fascinated by autopsies an dead people, however I would recommend the following books (these were fantastic) over this one: Morgue, by Vincent DiMaio and Working Stiff, by Judy Melinek.

Currently reading:

img_2688I am 2/3 of the way through Swimming Lessons. It is not being released until February, however it is the first “exclusive” that Book of the Month has done, meaning they exclusively were able to release it a couple of months early. It will be interesting to see if they start doing this a lot in the future. This was my family’s BOTM choice so it will be interesting to see what everyone thinks of it. It is the story of a marriage, told both by the couple’s adult daughter, and also through the wife via old letters. I really like the way it is set up, although the story overall isn’t what I expected.

I began Only Love Can Break Your Heart last night on Hoopla, so I really don’t have much to say about it yet, although it has a 100% rating on Litsy, was a BOTM pick earlier in the year, and if I’m not mistaken, was one of Liberty Hardy’s top 125 books of the year. So really, how could I not read it?

Serial Reader:

img_2683I finished The Abbot’s Ghost: A Christmas Story, by Louisa May Alcott last week. It was a readalong on Litsy and the consensus was that it was just so-so. I felt the opposite of a lot of the other readers, in that the beginning was very strong and then the story fizzled out.

I am now reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time (I think). It seems so familiar as I’m reading it, so I’m not sure if it is just because it is a well known story or if I read it as a child and forgot. Either way, I will be reading it for the next month and have no plans currently to add another book to my Serial routine, as I have really enjoyed taking my time with just one book each morning instead of two.

What is everyone else’s week looking like?



2017 Back to the Classics Challenge


It has been awhile since I joined any challenges, but I saw this one pop up and instantly I knew I had to participate.

Had you asked me a year ago, I would have told you that I had no interest in reading classics anymore. The seem so cumbersome and heavy. There are so many books being released now that are so awesome that I figured classics were a thing of the past.

And then I discovered Serial Reader.

When I first heard about Serial Reader on Litsy (another obsession of mine), I thought ok, great. Just not for me. Because, once again, I had no intentions of reading another classic. But then I had a sudden change of heart. That was in July and since then, I have finished four classics that I doubt I would have read ever otherwise: Anna Karenina, The Jungle, A Christmas Carol, and The Abbot’s Ghost.

I think the Back to the Classics Challenge 2017, hosted by Karen over at Books and Chocolate, is the perfect way to plan out my reading year as far as Serial Reader is concerned.

(Copied directly from her blog, I have added my title choices in red)

Here’s how it works:

The challenge will be exactly the same as last year, 12 classic books, but with slightly different categories. You do not have to read 12 books to participate in this s

  • Complete six categories, and you get one entry in the drawing
  • Complete nine categories, and you get two entries in the drawing
  • Complete all twelve categories, and you get three entries in the drawing

And here are the categories for the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge:

1.  A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899. North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell.

2.  A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications. Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser.

3.  A classic by a woman authorAgnes Grey, Ann Bronte.

4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories). Something by Chekhov.

5.  A classic published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category also. The Castle of Ontranto, Horace Walpole.

6.  An romance classic. I’m pretty flexible here about the definition of romance. It can have a happy ending or a sad ending, as long as there is a strong romantic element to the plot. Mathilda, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

7.  A Gothic or horror classic. For a good definition of what makes a book Gothic, and an excellent list of possible reads, please see this list on Goodreads Zofloya, Charlotte Dacre.

8.  A classic with a number in the title. Examples include A Tale of Two Cities, Three Men in a Boat, The Nine Tailors, Henry V, Fahrenheit 451, etc. Twelve Years a Salve, Solomon Northrup.

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  It an actual animal or a metaphor, or just the name. Examples include To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Metamorphosis, White Fang, etc. The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle.

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. It can be real or imaginary: The Wizard of Oz, Down and Out in Paris and London, Death on the Nile, etc. The Beautiful and the Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Because who doesn’t want to be part of the glitz and glamour of NYC’s upper crust in the 1920s!

11. An award-winning classic. It could be the Newbery award, the Prix Goncourt, the Pulitzer Prize, the James Tait Award, etc. Any award, just mention in your blog post what award your choice received. This one has me stumped so I plan on seeing what everyone else chooses. Lol.

12. A Russian Classic. 2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author. The Gambler, Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

And now, the rest of the rules:

  • All books must be read in 2017. Books started before January 1, 2017 do not qualify. All reviews must be linked to this challenge by December 31, 2017. I’ll post links each category the first week of January which will be featured on a sidebar on this blog for the entire year. 
  • You must also post a wrap-up review and link it to the challenge no later than December 31, 2017. Please include links within your final wrap-up to that I can easily confirm all your categories. 
  • All books must have been written at least 50 years ago; therefore, books must have been written by 1967 to qualify for this challenge. The ONLY exceptions are books published posthumously.
  • E-books and audiobooks are eligible! You may also count books that you read for other challenges.
  • Books may NOT cross over within this challenge. You must read a different book for EACH category, or it doesn’t count.
  • Children’s classics are acceptable, but please, no more than 3 total for the challenge.
  • If you do not have a blog, you may link to reviews on Goodreads or any other publicly accessible online format. 
  • The deadline to sign up for the challenge is March 1, 2017. After that, I will close the link and you’ll have to wait until the next year! Please include a link to your original sign-up post, not your blog URL. 
  • You do NOT have to list all the books you’re going to read for the challenge in your sign-up post, but it’s more fun if you do! Of course, you can change your list any time. Books may also be read in any order. 
  • The winner will be announced on this blog the first week of January, 2018. All qualifying participants will receive one or more entries, depending on the number of categories completed. One winner will be selected at random for all qualifying entries. The winner will receive a gift certificate in the amount of $30 (US currency) from either Amazon.com OR $30 worth of books from The Book Depository. The winner MUST live in a country that will receive shipments from one or the other. For a list of countries that receive shipments from The Book Depository, click here.


Obviously I reserve the right to change my mind and substitute other titles for those listed above, blah blah blah. I would love to hear some of the titles other people are planning to read for this challenge!