’tis The Season to Curl Up With a Good Book.

I did a LOT of reading while I was recovering from my surgery, and since then, on sub-freezing days, I’ve done a LOT of reading to self-medicate myself through the evil ailment of winter. So it’s clearly time again to share my favorite reads (the last two versions can be found here and here, and I’ve gotten zero complaints about my recommendations, so clearly I would never steer you wrong.)

Favorite Read this Go-Round: The Sheila Turnage Mo and Dale Mystery Books.

These books are SO FUN. The dialogue and characters are fantastically southern small town. Think To Kill A Mockingbird, but set in the twenty-teens, and also lighter and sillier. She includes brilliant details that make these a delight all the way through (my favorite is that one of the characters drives an Underbird. It used to be a Thunderbird, until the T and h fell off), and sad when they’re over (a fourth book is due out in the fall – she best not be late.) The books are technically children’s books, but a lot of the topics are more mature than typical kid books (child abuse, affairs, murder, you know – the usual.) So I recommend them for adults, and you use your judgment as to whether your kids are ready to read them (I would let Ali read them, but they would also require some follow-up conversations, I’m sure.)

Best Historical Fiction: Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

I do not gravitate toward historical fiction. I prefer made-up universes. So when I started reading this book and realized it was historical fiction, I was a tiny bit bummed. But then I fell in love with the three storylines and upon finishing, immediately loaned it out to a friend because it’s just THAT GOOD. It’s an enjoyable read, and I’ll definitely make Ali read this one when she studies World War II – it fleshes out several details of how the war affected people’s lives in a way that will definitely stick with me, and will humanize it for her.

In the category of New Series That’s Worth Following: The Apprentice Witch.

The best news about this series is that the second book comes out on March 1, so you won’t have too much waiting before getting another fix. Also, this book has the most beautiful, tactile cover I’ve ever seen. But besides all that, it was a great read. He creates a world where witches are assets and somewhat like soldiers in a war-torn world. Each town needs and honors their witch that helps protect them. A few chapters are a bit clunky, but it’s his first novel, and the creativity of the universe creation makes up for it.

Best Book You Never Heard Of: Ruined by Paula Morris.

This book would be a perfect read for the Mardi Gras season, or right before you visit New Orleans. It’s a ghost story that takes place in and among the New Orleans socialite, the Krewes, and the crypts of the old cemeteries. It’s not super creepy or scary, and is a very engaging read. There’s a sequel that I haven’t read yet, but it’s definitely on my Amazon wish list.

In the ever-popular category of Old European Men Find Their Way, I loved both A Man Called Ove and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.

I will say that I cried a lot while reading A Man Called Ove, but I think it had more to do with my uterus having been freshly removed than Ove’s story.

I think.

(Let me know if it’s actually Ove.)

But they’re both fantastic reads if you like the genre of personal stories of old men. Which apparently I do.

In the category of seeking to understand someone else’s existence, I highly recommend The Stars Beneath our Feet.

It is set in the projects of Harlem and takes you through the journey of a 12-year-old boy in between being safe as a child and being recruited and bullied by gangs as a teen. This book explains the feelings and struggles he goes through in beautiful and relatable ways. I think this would be a great read for tweens and teens.

In the category of I’m not quite sure whether to recommend this one but I really enjoyed it so…read at your own risk, I recommend The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

This book is not for everyone. Neil Gaiman is weird. But I’m weird, so I kinda get him. I adored Neverwhere, I liked the audio book of Coraline, and I liked the movie (not-so-much the book) of Stardust. This book is a short read, but is really good, if you don’t mind some creepiness. Also, this book is not for kids. You might be like “Rachel, are you sure you meant to recommend this?” halfway through the book, but if you make it to the end, I think you’ll come back and say “Okay I so get it.”

In the category of “It’s a miracle! I finally liked an author’s second book!”, I enjoyed Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

I recommended her first book, Love Lies and Spies, in my first book recommendation post. And to be honest, these two books are quite a lot alike (the stories have totally run together in my head.) But if you loved Love Lies and Spies and want more, this book is definitely for you.

And finally, in the category of it’s about time I got around to reading that, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

This book wasn’t nearly as creepy as I expected (based on the cover.) As a blogger who often does this, I totally loved his ability to weave actual old photographs into his story. (Okay I don’t weave actual old photographs into my stories, but I think you know what I mean.) The characters he created from the photographs were delightful, and the story was fun, although it seemed to drag a bit toward the end. I bought the three sequels to this book, but haven’t read them yet. If you have and you loved or hated them, let me know!

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from my book recommendation posts, and a couple people also asked for lists of the books I didn’t enjoy, perhaps to gauge whether I’m a reputable opinion giver, or perhaps so as to not waste their time on them.

Books I didn’t like:

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan – I adored Counting by 7s, but Short was a total drag. Which is a shame because the cover was adorable.
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. I mentioned this in the last review. But yeah. I got rid of this book as soon as I finished it. It gave me alll the anxiety.

Books that were okay, but not spectacular:

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley
The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Steward (a disappointing follow-up book after I fell in love with the Mysterious Benedict Society series)
Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume
The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs (If you’re a total Hamilton geek, you will enjoy this – it just dragged on a bit.)

What have you read lately?

Leave your comment below!


  1. Julie C Kilbride says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who was meh on 100 cupboards. I thought it was ok, but not in depth enough to engage me, and too anxiety producing to hand to my son (,I was prereading based on a recommendation for kids his age)

    • Yeah. I couldn’t get into the world, and it had all these vague horrors it alluded to. Maybe the rest of the series is better but I really need to be pulled in from the first book to keep reading.

  2. I’ve read and enjoyed the books at the beginning and the end of your list. I’ll have to try some of the middle. I’m pleased to hear another person preferred Stardust the movie to the book. It is one of only two books I have ever said that about. The Princess Bride is the other. I didn’t love Miss Peregrine’s enough to read the sequels. You’ll J’s e to let me know if they’re worth it. I did love the old pictures that were woven in. What were those people thinking when they took most of those pictures?? I do really like The 100 Cupboards books, and Caden loved them. That’s not enough disparity for me to not remain confident that we’re book compatible. I just finished The War that Saved Me (#1 and 2). I think you’d like them, even though they’re set in WW2.

  3. Miss Peregrine ‘s Home…I felt meh about the first one, didn’t care for the second one at all and didn’t even try to read the third one. The movie was a disappointment as well, but then again, I don’t really like movies.

  4. I really like The Ocean at The End of The Lane! Have you read The Graveyard Book by Gaiman? I like it better than Ocean.

    The Book Thief is a book I frequently recommend to my students. I’m currently reading The Watsons Go To Birmingham with my 6th grade class and The Giver with my 7th. I recommend both.

    Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is a great book, and definitely not one I would read with my middle school students.

  5. My 10 year old reads a few chapter books a week. If I sit down to read a book I feel guilty, like I should be writing an IEP (I am a special ed teacher) or consolidating my data or cleaning the kitchen or fixing something. Oddly enough I can sit and watch Netflix with not as much guilt, that’s just wrong. In the summer I read a chapter book every few days even though I do also work in the summer, it just feels better. I made it a goal to read at least 1 book in February. So I went to my 10 year old for some help and she handed me the book Ugly by Robert Hoge. So I am giving that a try. She has read the book thief and the Home for Peculiar Children and maybe some others? I monitor her reading to a point. I remember seeing Echo in her library bag but I think it was one she could not get into reading. She has a disturbing obsession with Greek Gods and Rick Riordan books. I fear when she begins dating that she will be looking for a Percy Jackson look a like. I do love the little literary geek in her. I did read the Penderwick series with her and that was an enjoyable read, Ali would likely enjoy it too. She did read it 2 years ago but she has since reread the series.

  6. For anyone who is into crime stories I would recommend Stieg Larssons Millennium series (the Girl with the dragon tattoo is the first). I know of people who could almost not bear to read the last chapters because then there would be no more (of the original first three books). They are tough, but the best books I have ever read.

    For children I cannot wait till my son is old enough for The never ending story. I remember not being able to stop when reading it my self.

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