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Nothing better than a good book...

If it's good, I'll read it! Instagram:  @crystenasbooks

Currently reading

Coming Home
Rosamunde Pilcher
Progress: 445/936 pages
Challenge Participant Professional Reader 80%

Reading progress update: I've read 27%.

Howards End - Mary Gordon, E.M. Forster

Really enjoying this. 


I enjoy the writing. I can relate to Margaret, the elder of the two sisters.  Sometimes she makes impulsive decisions, reacting with emotion and then with a clearer head does a 180. When she's wrong she wants to fix it immediately. She's unpredictable. It makes for good reading.


Helen, the younger sister, is an idealist and grates on my nerves a bit. She seems to get lost in her own thoughts to the exclusion of good sense. Though I enjoyed the chapter about Beethoven's Fifth and how she read into the interpretation of the music.  Really shows the power music can have in determining your mood.


All this talk about England and the Continent is really interesting when you realize this book was written in 1910, four years before The Great War. 


I always find it interesting when men write female characters because I am female  - whether or not it will feel authentic. I don't know if male readers have the same thoughts when a female writes male characters or writes from their point of view. Right now I find it authentic. There was a point where Mrs. Wilcox asks Margaret whether or not she forgets she's a girl and I couldn't decide if this was done for a plot point or so you forgive Foster if you don't find it to be authentic...or both. 


Just my ramblings as I read this. 

Reading progress update: I've read 3%.

Howards End - Mary Gordon, E.M. Forster

Reading in preparation for the mini-series.


I remember seeing the movie years ago but don't remember too many details. I never read the book.


The beginning had me hooked.  It opens with Margaret receiving a letter from her sister saying she is in love. Margaret wants to run to her sister to find out what is going on being they don't know the family or the young man that well but, alas, their brother is sick. So their Aunt offers to go,  offering to make inquiries and well... meddle. She says she isn't. But she reads like she will.  Margaret puts the Aunt on a train after making her promise to behave and then is handed this telegram from her sister:


"All over.  Wish I had never written. Tell no one."


And I thought, "Nononononoooooooooooooooooo!!!"  But the Aunt is gone. 


*Chapter ends*



Reading progress update: I've read 44%.

Scythe - Neal Shusterman

I jumped on the bandwagon and started reading this after seeing some positive feedback on it by some people here. :) 



I'm really enjoying this.


I like the deeper issues being raised and I have no idea where the story is going... highly entertaining.

Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers - Imbolo Mbue

Author: Imbolo Mbue

Rating: 3 stars


Not bad.


Contrasting the main characters' immigration issues with the fall of Lehman Brothers was interesting. Watching the couple fight so hard to stay in America while the economy crashed and their Wall Street employers became disillusioned... it was a solid read. Definitely made you think. 

Faulkner House
Faulkner House

Visited New Orleans this past week. Visited William Faulkner's house which is now a bookstore. 

the family next door

The Family Next Door - Sally Hepworth

Author: Sally Hepworth

Rating: 4 stars


Good writing and a nice twist elevate this book from this is just a Hallmark-movie-of-the-week in print status. Not that I dislike Hallmark movies. I've been known to binge watch with mom on snow days.


How well do you know your neighbors? In this story, there is more than meets the eye to all our characters. It was fun putting the pieces together and trying to figure out what was going on in this little suburban neighborhood. I thought I had it a couple of times in the beginning but was wrong.  Finally, by page 172  I had figured out the big twist. BUT I thought- If Hepworth is going there, that's a nifty twist.  I'm on board. Let's ride this train. 


Well done.


Definitely recommend. 

Sale on Tayari Jones' Books

Leaving Atlanta - Tayari Jones The Untelling - Tayari Jones An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

On Kindle, Tayari Jones' novels  Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling are both $1.99 USD today.  I don't know how long the sale lasts.


The writing in An American Marriage was so strong I bought them immediately and look forward to reading them in the weeks to come. 


Wanted to let you know in case you were interested. 

Can't Help Myself

Can't Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions from a Modern Advice Columnist - Meredith Goldstein

Our author upon seeing her ex after a brutal breakup:


He wore his eveyday khakis and button-down suit shirt and chatted with coworkers with an easy smile on his face. I'd hide behind the cafeteria plants thinking, "How dare he. How dare he eat."


I laughed out loud reading this, thinking of my own irrational responses to heartache.


I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir.  


Meredith Goldstein has an advice column called Love Letters for The Boston Globe. This book recounts how it began and includes some of those letters and their responses.  That alone made for good reading.  Who hasn't been in love or struggled in a relationship?  Who hasn't experienced unrequited love and/or had problems letting go and moving on?  Reading other peoples experiences lets us see that, for the most part, we aren't crazy- we are human. 


This book also includes anecdotes from Ms. Goldstein's love life as well as how the column helped her when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. I didn't always agree with Ms. Goldstein's advice - but she was open and honest and ... human. This book had a lot of humor in it. I also cried at parts. It's not often a book makes me run such an emotional gamut. 


Overall I definitely recommend. 


I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

I Know How You Feel

I Know How You Feel - F Diane Barth

Author: F. Diane Barth

Rating: 4 stars


I enjoyed this book. It's worth a read.


This book is written by a psychotherapist who specializes in women's relationships.  It delves into all the nuances of female relationships. I liked how it brought out that some women feel if they don't have that close we -share -everything-and-talk-everyday kind of relationship, one that is often idealized in movies and TV, there is something wrong or they did something wrong and they don't have real friendships. I've felt that way at times.


What I really enjoyed was the format. Ms. Barth gets in there at the beginning of the chapter and raises a premise. She states studies in succinct fashion and then exits the book for a bit and allows women to speak. The chapters are filled with women's life experiences and stories in their own words. I really enjoyed the parts about how women handle competition in life - over men, in the workplace, in social circles. And again the one on how relationships change as you age or make transitions in life. Each section has a what you can do section designed to help you better support and overcome obstacles in your friendships - or know when to let go while still learning from the experience.


I would love to see this book done in a book club.  The premises, observations and life experiences make for great conversation. 

Reading progress update: I've read 13%.

I Know How You Feel - F Diane Barth

This book, written by a psychotherapist that specializes in women's relationships, really delves into the complexities of female friendships. It is hitting me all over with the feels, got me saying "Amen"s and the "You speak truth"s. 


I feel like I have been waiting for this book. You watch TV and they paint this picture of these "ride or die" relationships that withstand Armageddon. I have those friends - don't get me wrong - but they are the exception and not the rule. It's so much more complex than that. I've lost longtime friends-  some became toxic, some we expected too much of each other, some we just grew apart.


Mmmm.  Such a good read. 

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

Author: Celeste Ng

Rating: 5 stars


This is a great book. 


There isn't much to say about it besides it's a book focused mainly on the character development of two families living in a small suburban town. There's a fire and a custody battle but the star of this book is the great writing and the way it just sucked you in and made you care about these people. I missed them instantly when I turned the last page. I still want more.


I will read Ng's other book without question. This was excellent. 

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

Author: Gail Honeyman

Rating: 5 stars


Eleanor Oliphant is a woman who walks to the beat of her own drum and has no social skills whatsoever. She is rude and thinks the problem is with everyone else. This book, with each page, unravels what makes Eleanor tick. You become attached to Eleanor as you learn more about why she is the way she is. By the end of the book, you are rooting for her.  This book made me laugh out loud more times than I could count. It also broke my heart and made me cry. I loved Eleanor and watching her struggle to make connections with others and overcome her loneliness made this book a great read. Supposedly Reese Witherspoon is going to make the movie of this book. I cannot wait.


Wholeheartedly recommend. 

An American Marriage

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

Author:  Tayari Jones

Rating:  4 stars


This is a complicated book.


I mean that as a compliment.


Let me start with the book blurb. In short, it says it's about an innocent man who is incarcerated and what it does to his marriage. The blurb out there makes no mention of the fact he is African American.  I struggled with this because the fact that he is changes the story. It does. And paints it in a shade that made me want to read it. Was it done to appeal to a broader audience? Was it because the problems at their heart are universal if someone is falsely accused? To the last question, the book does not read that way. Such as when the wife, who is named Celestial (yes, seriously) expresses how she feared that the justice system would rob her of the men in her life, whether they were guilty or not simply because they were black. There were such moments like that, bringing this book to life and telling you  what it is like to walk in my shoes as an African American woman with two brothers who yes,  have gotten pulled over for DWB and a father who taught them to memorize their license numbers and their social security numbers and to keep. their. hands. in. sight. at all times. 


Then after finishing this book, my feelings got even more tangled. Yes, this book is about how Roy and Celestial's marriage take a hit from him being wrongfully imprisoned. But it pulls no punches, we get a picture of these two before he is arrested. Roy is misogynistic and plays fast and loose with the idea of commitment in his marriage. Celestial comes off as self-absorbed - just gonna be straight here, I didn't care for her -  and is uncomfortably close to a male childhood friend. You see trouble on the horizon from the word GO. There is an argument to be made that the strains on their marriage would have happened without his incarceration and that their separation only amplified their problems. You could say that. But he was falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned and they were robbed of the time and space to figure it all out. What ifs. If onlys. 


This book is about how such a situation has a devastating effect on not just the person but their loved ones, there is irreparable harm done. A timeline that is altered and irretrievably lost. I appreciated a quote that is used in the book to the effect of 'Nothing happens only to you, not just to you.'


I don't even know if this is a real review. It's more of a collection of my rambling thoughts on the book. To sum up I will say this  -  a book that makes you walk in the shoes of others albeit fictional, and makes you think about what's going on around you can't be a bad read. Job well done. 


Yeah, I recommend it.




Reading progress update: I've read 26%.

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

"Marriage is between two people. There is no studio audience."



This. This truth hit such a nerve I said "Amen" out loud at my work desk.


There's a lot to say about this book- it's excellent so far btw - an intimate look at what happens to a young African -American couple's marriage when the husband is falsely accused and then incarcerated. 


I have so many emotions I need to find words to fit them. I'll save them for the review.

February 2018 Recap

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook - Leslie Connor Wolf Hollow - Lauren Wolk The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air) - Holly Black

The month of February was a drastic improvement over January.


I enjoyed most everything I read!!! The above books are my 5-star reads.  I had four! If I had to pick a standout it would have to be Wolf Hollow.  Amazing book - go read it!  It's bound to be a classic in the vein of To Kill a Mockingbird. 


All together I read 13 books- closing out with the five-star read of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. This book was flooding my Bookstagram feed with great reviews and I will add mine to the mix - it's amazing. I do recommend it.


I read:


5 Middle-Grade books (4 of which were part of my Newberry Medal project) 

1 Young Adult

2 English Mysteries

1 Historical Fiction

2 Contemporary Literature

2 Non -fiction Books ( 2 books about diabetes to help my parents)


Nice. I like diversity.


Onward to March! Happy reading!



Reading progress update: I've read 327 out of 327 pages.

— feeling amazing
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

What a book to close out February!


Excellent. Just excellent.


Excuse me while I go wipe these tears and blow my nose.