Great Reads

Drowning Lessons (Red Frog Beach Mystery #1)

Publish Date:
Rachel Neuburger Reynolds

Thank you to Netgalley and Jeepers Way Press for a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Summary:

You are cordially invited to a destination wedding to die for… Welcome to Bocas del Toro, a remote chain of islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama. Five days of glorious sun and lush rainforest await the forty guests celebrating Bridezilla Olivia’s dream wedding—but will a grisly murder sink the catered affair? Before anyone’s got time to start working on a tan, an unfortunate snorkeling accident eliminates a member of the wedding party. Maid of honor Lexie Marino smells trouble, and takes it upon herself to investigate, hoping to solve the case before her bestie’s trip down the aisle gets tropically derailed.
Lexie’s a little too tall, a little too awkward, and a little too brokenhearted, but she’s determined to nail the real killer. Can this unlikely sleuth stay afloat as she’s hit by wave after wave of wildly entertaining characters, including an alpha bride, surfing detectives, and a high school flame long forgotten? You’ll find yourself laughing until the very end of Drowning Lessons, a debut cozy mystery that makes the perfect beach read. Rub in some coconut oil, dangle your feet in the crystal-blue waters of Starfish Beach, and sip a cool drink as Lexie discovers the deductive superpowers she never knew she had. Let the party begin!

This is the first book of five in the Red Frog Beach Mystery Series.

My Review:

Let’s start with a story of myself. Circa 1996, seven year old me, living life at the beach, never have I been anywhere where poisonous frogs have been a thing. I probably just enjoyed my time at the amphibian exhibit at the Cape May zoo. I wake up screaming from a nightmare that I’ve had. Thousands of poisonous frogs chase me into my house located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens (the opposite  of any tropical location) where the jump and crawl upon each other trying to reach me as I’m standing on a wooden chair in my parents’ kitchen. I have no clue why I had this dream but my parents won’t let me live it down. Two years later, my father buys me a Beanie Baby frog that I scream over and won’t accept. (see photo below thanks to Google). I have had this irrational fear of poisonous frogs now for 23 years. I knew I had to give this a read and try to at least validate my fears!


I enjoyed this read! It was less cozy of a mystery than I thought. It contained more scandalous elements than most cozy mysteries ever do and that worked for me. The book was a mystery but also held drama elements as well.  Lexie was a likable character and deserves the reward of the year for being an awesome friend. She is put in situations that I would have lost my mind over and/or told off my friend ten times over. She is not an investigator by any means but somehow ends up pulling off what she needs to after the death of a groomsman during a pre-wedding snorkel activity. I also enjoy how funny Lexie can be and enjoyed many of the humorous scenarios that occur during the read.

My issue with the book was that it could be slow-paced at times. As the first book of the series, there could be more work to be done for readers to discover our character and I do hope that this is why we learned so much about Lexie. I hope that the author continues to use Lexie in this series or it wouldn’t make much sense for some of the background character driven knowledge we gained during the book.

Overall, there is some need for improvement in the series but it was a light-hearted mystery that still reads more than a cozy mystery. I do look forward to more of the series and figuring out the mysteries that Lexie (hopefully) finds herself discovering.

Great Reads

May Wrap-Up

I’m still deciding not to set a June TBR. May’s freestyle worked out rather well. I tried out audiobooks for the first time this month! They worked out really well for my long commutes to and from work, having something to listen to while making dinner, and sitting in the tanning bed! I’ll keep to them during those times; however, I think I’ll only stick to nonfiction. I tried two fictions on audiobook. One I put down and one I completely hated the narrator’s voice and expression that it ruined the book for me! Here’s what I finished in the month of May:

Normal People – Review found here

Drowning Lessons (Red Frog Beach Mystery #1) – Review coming soon!

The Grownup

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology – Review coming soon!

Dear Mrs. Bird – Review coming soon!

Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo – Review coming soon!

Queen of Hearts – Review coming soon!

Food: A Love Story – Review coming soon!

Staying Up with Hugo Best – Review coming soon!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Review coming soon!

The Mister – Review coming soon!

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things! – Review coming soon!

Flowers for Algernon – Review coming soon!

The Proposal – Review coming soon!

Josh and Hazel’s gGuide to Not Dating – Review Coming soon!

I have so many of these reviews written and scheduled but with 14 books read this month and 12 last month, it’s becoming crazy to schedule them!  There would be a review almost every day which is awesome but I’m seriously looking for time just to write them, lol! I promise, you’ll see them!

Great Reads

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Publish Date:  
Sally Rooney

Thank you to Netgalley and Hogarth for providing me an e-copy in exchange for my honest review.

Goodreads Summary:

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

My Review:
I do not really know what I think. I know most people are raving over this but it was not for me. I did enjoy the complexity of Marianne and Connell’s relationship but it ends there for me. This was completely character driven and although the two characters were complex together, I was not very interested in scenes when they were not.

I also know that I was warned that this was a challenging read with little punctuation. I did not find it necessarily challenging but annoying. I could not understand the reasoning behind the absence of punctuation, and when I say no punctuation, I really mean NO punctuation. It was like Rooney was trying to redefine English grammar rules because she felt like it. Voices were so hard to differentiate and different characters were introduced at random times.

There were strong themes of sex in the book. I felt like the author could have made Marianne and Connell’s relationship even more complex with adding more elements of friendship. I know that they were there but I was wanting more of that and less of the physical aspect. I know that the lack of the emotional attachment was there for a reason but when that emotional aspect was brought up, it felt more forced and out of place.

Another issue of mine is that I think the author wanted to highlight normal people leading normal lives but missed that mark making Marianne and Connell a little less than normal. The sexual themes, themes of domestic violence, and hard times could be viewed as normal but I still feel as y pro: it definitely highlights normal people leading normal lives were a little different than what I would consider normal. 

I understand that so many people enjoyed the book but I really did not. I rated it three stars because I can recognize what the author was trying to do and she succeeded in many people’s opinions. For me I just couldn’t get invested. On to the next I guess!

Great Reads

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Publish Date: 
Rick Riordan

Goodreads Summary:

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse – Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena – Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

My Review:

My students kept telling me to read this! I am in the process of starting to set my students up for reading The Odyssey. I had a ton of students answering questions and comparing lessons to circumstances in The Lightning Thief so I knew that I had to read it. I always am happy to read something that my students recommend and in this instance, it’s been such a help now that I can use it for my students to reference during reading.

I loved this. I am so happy to have finally gotten to it. Percy and the other characters were so likable. This also serves as a great outlet to Greek mythology. I found myself reading and recognizing so many characters and instances in the story and was in awe on how Riordan was able to utilize all of it.

The best part about this is how Riordan was able to modernize Greek mythology. He didn’t stray from the gods’ characteristics in any way but was able to incorporate them into modern times in such an amazing way. The setting was even more surprising as Mount Olympus was found on the top of the Empire State building where Hades was found in good ol’ L.A (can you imagine why?). It serves as a great outlet for kiddos to learn about Greek mythology and making it feel relevant.

I left this book excited to read more of the series and if I didn’t have so many deadlines for other books at the moment, I would have already dove into it! I HIGHLY suggest giving this middle grade novel a chance no matter what age you are! You won’t regret it in any way.

Great Reads

April Wrap-Up

I am still working through my Spring Summer Bingo list. I’m doing really well even though I’ve deviated off of my TBR. Because of this deviation, I AM NOT setting up a TBR list for May. I am going to try and knock out some bingo squares but I am not in any way going to set anything specific because I’ve been changing so much around anyway.

All in all, April was AN AWESOME MONTH! I read more this month than I think I have any other month with a total of 12 books! I finished:

A Painted House – Review will be posted soon.

The Hunting Party – Review found HERE

Daisy Jones & the Six – Review found HERE

Tiny Hot Dogs: A Memoir in Small Bites – Review found HERE

The Lighting Thief – Review will be posted soon.

If Cats Disappeared from the World – Review found HERE

A River in Darkness – Review will be posted soon.

One of us is Lying – Review will be posted soon.

The Woman in the Window – Review will be posted soon.

Flygirl – Review will be posted soon.

Things You Save in a Fire – Review will be posted soon.

Dear Lily – Review will be posted soon.

What did you read this month?

Great Reads

ARC – The Wartime Sisters – OUT TODAY!

Publish Date :
 Lynda Cohen Loigman
Rating :

Thank you so much to Netgalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for a free copy of this advanced reader’s edition to review. All opinions are my own.

Goodreads Summary:

Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.

My Review:

It’s no secret how much I love WWII historical fiction. Actually, if I look back in my blog, that is mostly what I’ve reviewed and when I look back at my books I’ve rated 5 stars, so many of them are historical fiction with a setting of WWII. This book was no different for me. Ironically, I was pulled in right away without even being in the WWII time period. I wanted to see immediately how Ruth would fare in life. I was less interested in Millie. The tables turned quickly though as it seemed as Ruth took her rough childhood and became snobby whereas Millie’s more welcoming childhood went dark. My sympathies changed quite quickly; but even with these personal characteristics, both girls were likable and their personalities were understandable based on childhood events. 

This is a fresh take on WWII for me as not only is it set in America, it’s a woman’s perspective here in America. So often we get perspectives from characters in Europe and for good reasons as Europe was center stage; however, the females in America also have a story to tell. Working for an armory factory while many of their husbands were overseas fighting was a perspective I enjoyed reading. So, not only does this book center around sisters’ struggling relationships but the battles of living as a wife, mother, businesswoman, factory worker, widow, etc. during the war. 

I enjoyed the book as a whole and I’m so happy to have read this. I just ordered Loigman’s other novel and am looking forward to jumping in! I highly recommend this fresh perspective of WWII that centers on broken yet bounding relationships.

Great Reads

December / 2018 Wrap-Up and January TBR

This was an awesome year and my very first year blogging. This blog has definitely helped hold me accountable to reading and has gotten me reading more than I ever have. Two summers ago, (2017), I found Goodreads while I was surfing the internet. I always loved to read but finding this website was access to a brand new world. I started marking books upon books as “To Read” and that began my new reading journey. About a year into reading, I converted my “food only” Instagram to incorporate books as I started to follow so many readers and notice they were reading a ton. I then began to find a way to start blogging. A month into blogging, I found Netgalley, and the rest is history. I’m now constantly reading ARCS, getting books upon books sent to my house to review for publishers, and am enjoying every second! As a super busy teacher, I started the year (before embarking on my book blog and ARC journey) with a goal to read 30 books. I have read 73 books! That is amazing for me and my heaviest year of reading ever! I am happy with that number. I see some fellow bloggers who get through so much and I am a bit envious. However, I feel like I have a great balance in my life. Being a full time teacher, a restaurant reviewer, an avid gym-goer, and someone who is also addicted to mindless reality shows like Teen Mom, I am satisfied with my number in the 70’s! According to GoodReads I have read a total of 26,268 pages!!! I hope next year treats me just as well! So this post I will post every single book I have read this year at the end. This last month I read:

The Vanishing Box – Review found here

This is Cuba – Review found here

Slay Bells – Review found here

The Masterpiece – Review found here

The Twelve Dice of Christmas – Review found here

Children of Blood and Bone – Look for a review soon

For the start of the new year, I hope to read:

This is How it Always Is – by Laurie Frankel

Oh I Do Like To Be – by Marie Phillips

The Havana Game – by John Lutz

The Only Woman in the Room – by Marie Benedict

The Song of Achilles –  by Madeline Miller – this is a buddy read with the same people I read Circe with

All the books I have read this year have reviews or reviews scheduled to be published except for the first few I started reading before blogging. If you are interested in reading them, please click on the title as it will bring you to the blog post. These are in order of how they were finished in the year.

11/22/63 by Stephen King
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
When Dimple Met Rishi byy Sandyha Menon
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
The Thing About Jellyfish ny Ali Benjamin
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Light between Oceans by M.L. Steadman 
The Outsiders by S.E Hinton
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (this was my first ARC ever!)
Educated by Tara Westover
Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
Walls of Silence by Ruth Wade
Macbeth by Jo Nesbo
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Mariam McNamara
Lady Be Good by Amber Brock
The High Season by Judy Blundell
White Houses by Amy Bloom
From Twinkle, With Love by Sandyha Menon (My 2nd Sandyha Menon book this year) Sorority by Genevieve Sly Crane
Birds of Wonder by Cynthia Robinson
Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp
Love and Ruin by Paula McLain
The Good Twin by Marti Green
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck
The Way of Beauty by Camille Di Maio
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li
The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
The Subway Girls by Susie Ornan Schnall
Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Sam’s Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose
Pretty Ugly Lies by Pamela Crane
Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel
Goodbye, Paris by Anstey Harris
Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan
Inferno by Dan Brown
She was the Quiet One by Michele Campbell
Every Time You Go Away by Beth Harbison
The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastly by Stuart Thurton
Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood
The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris
The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston
Misery by Stephen King (my 2nd King this year)
The Air You Breath by Frances de Pontes Peebles
The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince by Mayte Garcia
A Child Called ‘It’ by David Pelzer
The Girl from Berlin by Ronald H. Balson
The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang
The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman (blog scheduled for this January)
Our Little Lies by Sue Watson
Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar
Circe by Madeline Miller
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths
This is Cuba: An American Journalist under Castro’s Shadow by David Ariosto
Slay Bells by T.C. Wescott
The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis
The Twelve Dice of Christmas by Gail Oust

Great Reads

Me Before You – by Jojo Moyes


Publish Date : 07/30/2013
 Jojo Moyes
Pages: 369
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

My Review:
I finished Me Before You and it’s taken me a few days to compile any thoughts on it. It was addicting and I really enjoyed the characters. I have a hard time writing a review on this because it’s hard for me to put how I actually feel about this book without giving away any spoilers.

Will as a person was hard to like at first but for extremely good reasons. I feel as if I would be cold and depressed had I been in his shoes as well. I really felt awful for him the entire time but felt just as bad for Loisa who was doing her best to not only be there for Will but understand her own feelings towards the entire situation. I could not relate however to the “solution” in Will’s head because of my own religious beliefs just like other characters in the story. This however did not steer me from being super involved and interested in the story.

I really enjoyed watching Louisa grow as a person in the story. What many would have viewed as weakness or lack of motivation, was what the Trainor family needed. Louisa was such a dynamic character not only helping Will but growing as a person herself. The story was also eye-opening as we as people often feel like we know what is best for someone. We often can make decisions and find it easy to solve another person’s problem but it’s  because we do not understand all the intricate dynamics that actually make a person who he or she is. This book was a great reminder that other people’s feelings will differ and you don’t truly know what is best for someone without living the same exact life that they do. Sometimes it is easier to support someone’s decision rather than try and understand every aspect of that person.

As you can see, I’m super struggling to put any of my thoughts into words because I don’t want to give anything who hasn’t read this away and I also am still trying find more sympathy and understand Will who decided to make a choice that would affect more than just himself. All in all though, I did really like the book. It was thought-provoking and I am looking forward to diving into more of the series.

Great Reads


Publish Date :
 Madeline Miller
11/23/18 (My November Buddy Read assigned this into chapters during the month or I would have finished this overnight!!!) Thanks for organizing bookbuddyreads
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

My Review:

I enjoyed this book right from the start. I read this as a buddy read in which certain chapters were talked about every week. Although I wanted to finish the story in one setting, I dragged it out so that I would remember relevant information to talk about on a weekly basis. Had I finished it quickly, I’m sure I would have given spoilers during discussions and did not want to be that person. This is the only reason why I read this book within an entire month. I had been dying to pick this book up since the moment it was announced and I wish I would have sooner as I got it into my TBR shelf the second I was able to.

The mythology intrigued me. What I loved right from the beginning is the harsh upbringing Circe endured as a child. I did not know much about Circe other than a tiny bit from The Odyssey. What I thought of her then was more evil than what I gathered from this book. I liked seeing that she had compassion in her. I also liked that I understood where her harshness actually did come from. I felt so bad for her being so misjudged and really felt awful for her punishment in which introduces itself into what I and readers of The Oddessey know of Circe and her island. I must be a little honest, I was a little jealous of Circe’s punishment. Being banished to an island with not a single soul to bother her, with a house that was immaculate that no dust or dirt could come by (a self-cleaning house!) that had abundances of cheese and grains with a self-lighting nightly fireplace. I mean, c’mon! Punish me! I could totally get used to that. I barely enjoy being with the people I love for long periods of time, haha! This is an only child’s dream, I’m telling ya’!

Everything about this book was great for me. I enjoyed Circe as a more dynamic character and thoroughly enjoyed learning about her. There were so many great points brought up during my buddy read that I didn’t think of as her exile to Aeaea was honestly the best and worst thing that ever happened to her. Although some parts were rough to get through, the truthfullness and accuracy that Miller put into the book was important. I really did not want the read to be over and wish that there was more to the book. Without giving away the ending, I wish there was more that Miller would do to possibly bring upon a sequel highlighting Circe, Telegonus, or even Telemachus.

Great Reads

Our Little Lies


Publish Date :
 Sue Watson
Pages: 318
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

Marianne has a life others dream of. A beautiful townhouse on the best street in the neighbourhood. Three bright children who are her pride and joy.

Sometimes her past still hurts: losing her mother early, growing up in foster care. But her husband, Simon, is always there. A successful surgeon, he’s the envy of every woman they’ve ever met. Flowers, gifts, trips to France: nothing is too good for his family.

Then Simon says another woman’s name. The way he lingers on it, Caroline , gives Marianne a shudder of suspicion, but she knows it’s nothing – she can’t entertain this flash of paranoia.

In the old days, she’d have distracted herself by excelling at work, but Marianne left her glamorous career when she married. She’d speak to a friend, but she’s too busy with her children and besides, Simon doesn’t approve of the few she has left.

It’s almost by accident that Marianne starts to learn more about Caroline. But once started, she can’t stop, because what she finds makes her wonder: is the question she should be asking not ‘should she be jealous’, but… ‘should she be scared?’

Fans of The Girl on the Train and I Let You Go, who are looking for a dark, gripping psychological thriller with a final twist to put their jaw on the floor, will love Our Little Lies.

My Review:

At no fault to anyone other than myself, this started out slow for me. I may just needed to pick this up at a different time; however it was too cliche. We have Marianne who is married to the perfect guy in the perfect scenario with the perfect children, etc. etc. I know. You’ve read this before too. But it doesn’t stay like the cliche story I was expecting. Simon is a jerk but Marianne has some major issues too. I gave her the benefit of the doubt knowing that Simon’s behaviors likely added to her insanity but I didn’t like Marianne either as she was painted to be insane and she herself knew so.

I had an issue with how slow the book was. 50% in and the background information about Simon and Marianne’s marriage was getting to be annoying for me. I understand that much of the information was an important aspect of understanding the couple and each of their history but I lost interest. Had I not read reviews or was okay with giving up on a book without finishing it, I may have put it down but I stuck it out and exactly at 54% for me, I was hooked.

Marianne, Simon,  and Caroline were all extremely unlikable for me. WhIle I usually don’t like books with characters that don’t have any redeeming qualities at, this wasn’t necessarily the case since it was a more important to the plot and conflicts as a whole to dislike them. Even with the unlikable characters, I eventually started to feel sorry for then, especially Marianne and Caroline, and my perceptions of them and even Simon changed many many times. It’s hard to give more about the dynamics without giving it away. This was a great read and you most definitely won’t see the ending coming!