I’m working my way through my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge of 52 books. Check out the full list here to join in!
I’ve only checked 7 books off my list, which puts me a bit (ok, a lot) behind on my reading goal so far, but I’m having fun choosing selections from the list that shake up my normal reading habits. Check out my progress so far, and let me know if you have any recommendations for what to read next!
No. 51 – A Book You Started But Never Finished
I picked up this book last October and made it most of the way through before setting it down again for the rest of the year, so it was the perfect option to select for No. 51 on my reading challenge list: A book you started but never finished.
The Recipe Box follows a NYC-based pastry chef named Sam Mullins, who quits her unsatisfying job and returns home for the summer to her family’s fruit orchard in northern Michigan. Sam grew up wanting nothing more than to escape the expected responsibility of the orchard and forge her own path in the city, but after graduating from pastry school and working for a boss that treats her like garbage, Sam returns home and reconnects with her roots.
Each woman in the Mullins family receives a recipe box with a key and an identical set of family recipes, passed down through the generations. Over the years, the recipe cards become flecked with oil, sugar, and fruit from well-use and the recipes often reflect whatever is going on with the baker at that moment.
Though I fully expected a fluffy read (and sorely needed one at the time I picked this book up), I found myself rolling my eyes often at the predictable Hallmark moments between Sam and her family and Sam and her love interest. I found the writing to be overly syrupy, which distracted me from enjoying some of the more interesting themes like the significance of the recipe boxes themselves.
Goodreads rating 2/5
No. 48 – A Bargain Book You Bought for Less than $5
I purchased the Kindle version of this book years ago for the bargain price of $1.07 (or more likely 99 cents + tax) and it’s been sitting on my digital shelf waiting to be read ever since, so it was the perfect read to select for No. 48: A bargain book you bought for less than $5.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry follows the titular character A.J. Fikry who’s wife has died, leaving him alone and depressed with a bookstore that is experiencing terrible sales. He drinks too much, he’s surly, and the only thing he values in his life is a rare copy of Edgar Allen Poe poems that he chanced upon at a thrift sale, that sits locked in a safe in his apartment above the bookstore.
At the same time that the book gets stolen (of course is does), a small child is abandoned at his shop. He decides to adopt the child, and slowly opens himself back up to life as she grows and flourishes. This premise in itself was intriguing. I love the mystery behind the rare book being stolen and the child being dropped off at the exact right moment that A.J. needed something real to care about.
However, the dark and depressing themes in the book greatly outweighed anything light. Maybe this is reflective of the way life really is, but I personally enjoy reading as escapism, so this book just wasn’t for me.
If you’re into books where the characters aren’t really having fun at any point and most of them die, this book might be for you. If you are not into being depressed through the majority of a book, maybe steer clear of this one.
Given that last statement, you may be wondering why I gave this a generous 2-star rating rather than a single star. This is purely because the characters and their intersecting lives were interesting and well-fleshed out by the author. I also enjoyed that this book mostly takes place in a bookstore, which deserves a star on it’s own because bookstores are magic.
Goodreads rating 2/5
No. 24 – A Mystery Novel
Another book that has been sitting on my digital shelf for some time, this book fulfills No. 24 on my reading challenge list: A Mystery Novel.
The Lanvin Murders is the first in a murder mystery series that happens to take place in Portland, OR where I live. I particularly love that it’s clear that the author actually lives in the northwest, rather than just randomly writes about it from an outside perspective (cough cough Twilight) because she references our local streets and businesses correctly rather than just uses random made-up ones as a convenient plot device (cough cough 50 Shades).
Vintage clothing store owner, Joanna Hayworth can be described as a bit of a luddite. Her embracement of vintage extends past her love of vintage clothing to her use of rotary phones over cellphones at home and paper ledgers over a digital sale system in her store.
A regular customer, and former showgirl, named Marnie shows up at Joanna’s store and sells her a gorgeous old Lanvin coat from the 1930s, only to turn up dead in Joanna’s store laying beneath the coat the same week. Joanna embarks on a journey to find out who killed Marnie, the significance of a mysterious key hidden in the lining, and the story behind the gorgeous vintage coat.
This was a super fast and enjoyable read. The author describes her series as perfect bathtub reading and I think that is spot-on. Will this story resolve every single thread pulled in the plot? No. But you’ll enjoy the fun romp through the character’s story and have enough questions leftover to encourage you to read the next book – which I did.
Goodreads rating 4/5
No. 5 – A Book Set in Your Home State or Region
After quickly polishing off the first book in the Vintage Clothing Mysteries series, and still needing a perk-me-up after a couple of disappointing books beforehand, I eagerly jumped into the second book in the series, Dior or Die. With the series taking place primarily in Portland, OR, this book neatly fit into No. 5 of my reading challenge: A book set in your home state or region.
After winning a lot of 3 trunks full of vintage haute couture at a local auction, Joanna Hayworth’s plans to upgrade her store are put on hold when the original owner of the clothing, Vivian North, turns up dead the same day as the auction. With the clothing now being held as evidence in a murder investigation, Joanna is in a bit of a pickle. She’s worried about staying in business when a rival (and rich) clothing buyer announces that she plans to open a competing vintage clothing store just down the street from Joanna’s, which will surely put Joanna’s store out of business unless she makes some dearly needed upgrades to her stock. Joanna takes it upon herself to be an amateur sleuth for the second time, to solve the mystery of Vivian’s death and get the clothing released.
This book picks up several months after the first novel in the series and revisits many of the same characters and places that were introduced in the previous book. Theres a tiny bit of romance, but I appreciate that it doesn’t distract from the main mystery themes in the book. This, as expected, was a quick and enjoyable read like the first.
Goodreads rating 4/5
No. 7 – A Book That Has Been Adapted Into a TV Series
I decided that I should probably take a break from the quick murder mysteries because my main goal in this reading challenge was to shake up my current reads. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng could have easily slot into several of my reading challenge numbers, but I selected No. 7: A book that has been adapted into a TV series, because it was recently announced as in development as a mini-series.
The book follows the Richardson family, who live in an idyllic Cleveland suburb with perfectly manicured lawns and meticulously planned out futures. When artist and single mother Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl move into the duplex rental that the Richardson family owns down the street, their lives quickly become intertwined.
When the Richardson’s affluent friends decide to adopt a Chinese baby, abandoned at a local fire station the previous winter, Mia learns that the baby is the child of her coworker, a young immigrant mother who made a hasty decision in the midst of a very stressful situation. The ensuing legal battle divides the Richardson family and prompts a investigation by Mrs. Richardson into Mia Warren’s past. This books touches on some heavy questions surrounding race, class, and family and I found myself often bouncing from one side of various arguments to the other as the story progressed.
I thought this book was really well-written and the character’s complex backstories were well-executed to serve the overall story. I’m excited to see how the book translates to the screen and am confident it will be worth a watch as it stars and is produced by Reece Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.
Goodreads rating 4/5
No. 49 – A Book That’s Part of a Series
I told myself I was going to take a break from the quick bathtub murder mystery books, but I couldn’t help myself and dove right back into another from the Vintage Clothing Mysteries series. This book easily fit No. 49 on my list: A book that’s part of a series.
Slain in Schiaparelli follows vintage clothing store owner Joanna Hayworth as she heads to a remote Oregon mountain lodge near Timberline to dress a wedding party. Soon after arriving, the occupants of the lodge are snowed in with no hope of leaving for days. When the groom turns up dead after the first night, Joanna must discover if there is a ghost in the old lodge or a killer among the wedding party before they pick off everyone in the house.
This book was my least favorite in the series so far, but was still a fun read. I didn’t enjoy the characters in this one as much, but I did love that the murder in the midst of a small group of people cloistered together felt very Hercule Poirot.
Goodreads rating 3/5
No. 6 – A Book That Has Been Made Into a Movie
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
I definitely watched the movie before I ever knew there was a book. This cute little Netflix rom-com was delightful enough that I thought it would be fun to read the series, because as we all know the book is (almost) always better than the movie.
Each time 16-year-old Laura Jean Covey has a crush, she writes a love letter to that person, addresses it, seals it, and stuffs it in her hatbox never to see the light of day. The story follows Laura Jean as she navigates high school, boys, and her family when the hatbox of letters mysteriously gets sent out to each of her crushes. To make matters worse, one of the recipients of the letters is her older sister’s boyfriend.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was fluffy but fun, and I was able to enjoy the differences in the book and movie without feeling like one had ruined the other – which never happens! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this light and fun series in the future.
Goodreads rating 4/5
- Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
- Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
- Heartburn by Norah Ephron
If you have any recommendations that you think I should add to my reading list this year, I would love to hear them! I have a huge stack of TBR books on my list, but as most reading lovers know, there’s always room to add one or 70 more!
As a second part of this challenge, I’m repeating last year’s challenge to make sure atleast 50% of the books I read this year are by female authors. If you want to join me on any part of this journey, here’s another link to the challenge so you can follow along at your own pace.