237 Following

Nothing better than a good book...

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

Currently reading

Behold the Dreamers
Imbolo Mbue
Progress: 12 %
Challenge Participant Professional Reader 80%

Reading progress update: I've read 122 out of 582 pages.

The Shell Seekers - Rosamunde Pilcher

I am loving this.


What a great comfort read! It reminds of Belva Plain's Evergreen, heavy on character development and slowly, page after page,  lulling you into its web. All I want to do is read this book right now. 


We had a  power outage at work, so I sat by the window and read this while the electricians did their thing.

Searcher of the Dead

Searcher of the Dead: A Bess Ellyott Mystery - Nancy Herriman

Searcher of the Dead

Series: Bess Elliot Mysteries#1

Rating : 3 stars


This historical mystery set in Elizabethan England was a slow read. It’s about a young widower named Bess who is an herbalist. She is living with her brother after fleeing London because her husband was murdered. Long story short, a murder takes place in Bess’ family that she sets out to solve… well kinda. She and the local constable do equal parts sleuthing as you bounce back and forth between their points of view.


The mystery was good in and of itself. I did not suspect who it turned out to be. And this book contained a lot of historical notes of the time such as the hiding of Jesuit priests and the subsequent punishment.  Also, I did not know, or maybe I just didn’t remember that if you failed to attend church back then you were fined or worse. Talk about the church having power.


Anyways, the read was slow. It wasn’t bad… just slow. My interest kept waning at times. Though I never considered DNF’ing it.


So I gave it three stars. I might continue with the series if the synopsis for the next book entices me.


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

Wolf Hollow

— feeling amazing
Wolf Hollow - Lauren Wolk

Author: Lauren Wolk

Rating: 5 stars


Newberry Honor Book 2017


"But the wind always swept my words away like cloud shadows, as if it mattered more that I said them, than who heard them." - Wolf Hollow


This book deserves the honor and praise it has been given. It came highly recommended by a friend of mine who said it was up there with To Kill a Mockingbird.  Intrigued by her strong statement, I had to read it.


I was about a chapter into it and that feeling came over me. The one where you realize you are reading something that is bound to be a classic. This is literary, it's beautifully written. Yet it is still at its heart a middle-grade novel with wonderful lessons about bullying and standing up for others who are different, not unlike To Kill a Mockingbird. 


I can't recommend it enough. 


Here is the Book Blurb to give you a brief synopsis of what it is about: 


"Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount."


— feeling angry
Renegades - Marissa Meyer

I can't do it. 


I just can't.


I tried. I DNF'd it yesterday and then picked it up cuz the book was expensive, I don't have the receipt, and I really like Marissa Meyer.


But nothing is happening!


Storywise this moves like a snail. The first 200 pages could have been a well-edited novella of maybe 70 pages.


Also, this story has been done before! It reminds me of Steelheart only in that book - THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. 


And another thing - you know that picture Marvel took a couple days ago of all the superheroes? Well, imagine someone writing about all of them in 200+ pages. That's right. TOO MANY CHARACTERS. How am I supposed to care about anyone when there are 10 characters on a page all with different abilities? I need a chart. I SHOULDN'T NEED A CHART.


WHY IS THIS BOOK SO LONG?????? It's 552 pages! Did she lose a bet?


I can't. No more. 


*rant over*



All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook - Leslie Connor

Author: Leslie Connor

Rating: 5 stars


I struggled with this premise yall.


A middle-grade novel about a boy being RAISED IN A MINIMUM SECURITY PRISON struck me as ridiculous and idealistically implausible. My brain kept screaming  A CHILD DOES NOT BELONG IN A PRISON.


I'm not quite sure All Rise circumvents those concerns. But it was heartwarming and enjoyable. I know that probably makes no sense, but it's my honest opinion and you'll just have to read the book to see if you agree. 


Perry's mother, Jessica,  is in jail for a "mistake" she made when she was 18. She realized she was pregnant shortly after being incarcerated. The warden steps in and becomes the foster parent of the baby.  The warden creates a room for the child - Perry- at the prison so Jessica can raise him. Perry attends school, is kinda the prison mascot and is friends with *some* of the "rezs".   It is stressed that all of the prisoners are non-violent and the ones that are dangerous - this is a prison lest we forget- are referred to as the "cold ones" and Perry stays away from them. The cold ones stay on the periphery of the story. Which seems appropriate when you consider that is where Jessica and Perry mentally keep the harsh circumstances around them. As I read this story, my objections to the premise began to calm down and you begin to see the residents as Perry's friends and as complex people who made mistakes. 


The villain in the story, if you want to call him that, is a prosecutor who becomes aware of the situation. Perry is the worst kept secret in town so he learns of what is going on. He has Perry removed from the prison and takes him into his own family to show him a better life. This brings up interesting thoughts on what is best for a child, what is home, belief in redemption, forgiveness. The prosecutor is not all bad. I couldn't hate him when he was just voicing my same knee-jerk objections. 


Perry is an optimistic and lovable little boy who always looks for the good in every situation. He is slow to anger and is probably the most well-rounded character in the story. You root for Perry the whole book.


The secondary characters were wonderful. One of my favorite characters in the story which is Mrs. Samuels - the prosecutor's wife. While she supports her husband, she supports Perry as well. She reads as submissive but you learn she is no pushover.  I really enjoyed her character. 


Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I would even re-read it when I need a feel-good read. It was a pleasant surprise.






Flora and Ulysses

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures - K.G. Campbell, Kate DiCamillo

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Rating: 2.5 stars


Newberry Medal Winner 2014


Book Blurb:  Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in a genre-breaking new novel by master storyteller Kate DiCamillo. 


It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry - and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.


I should've liked this. A girl who reads comics and says things like "Holy Unanticipated Occurrences!"  A superhero squirrel that flies and loves poetry. Positive messages on connection and dealing with change... 


But I just could not connect with and/or get into this one. I closed the book and said "Meh". Maybe it's cuz I'm not the target demographic? Hmmm. Maybe. That's never stopped me before though. 


2.5 stars.

The Great Alone

The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah

Author: Kristin Hannah

Rating: 3 stars


A Kristin Hannah book is always well-written. The woman can write.  So when I rate her books, I rate her against other works I have read by her. Which is why this book only earned three stars from me.


This book was like watching a car wreck. One long rubbernecking session. It was difficult to put down. This story is told through the thirteen-year-old eyes of Leni, whose father was a POW in Vietnam and has returned home with some severe emotional scars. He is unstable and abusive. He thinks he will cure his behavior with a change of scenery. So he packs up Leni, her mother and they all move to Alaska. Because living somewhere where it’s night for months at a time, insanely cold, and where you are cut off from civilization does wonders for the mind.


I had a knot in my stomach for the duration of the novel. The story follows a textbook abusive relationship plotline, complete with the enabling and rationalizing and continued abuse. The setting of Alaska makes this book stand out, as Hannah’s descriptions really capture its beauty and make you want to visit in spite of everyone warning how hard it is every. other. page.


It was a good read, but not on a subject I want to continue reading about at any rate.



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

Reading progress update: I've read 71 out of 583 pages.

Middlemarch - George Eliot

Well looks like there wasn't too much fall out from Dorothea disregarding Sir James' feelings.


It does seem that she made an unwise choice in her fiancee. Mr. Casaubon is all regret and disappointed he's not "happier" now that he's getting married. He also finds her thirst for knowledge bothersome. I don't think she will be very happy.


All the misogynistic ramblings grate on my nerves. Such was the times I guess.  We'll see how Dorothea defies their expectations. 





What Remains of Heaven

What Remains of Heaven - C.S. Harris

Author: C.S. Harris

Series: Sebastian St. Cyr #5

Rating: 5 stars


This was a great installment to the series.


This time around the mystery involves two murders - their bodies are discovered in a crypt, but they were killed years apart. Sebastian is brought in by his aunt to figure out what is going on... and we are off! There were plenty of red herrings and great incorporation of actual history such as the Slave Trade Act of 1807 and the inclusion of William Franklin, Benjamin's son. Throughout the mystery, you get a feel of what England thought about the newly formed United States. In her author notes, Harris states that she took the character's statements from journals, speeches, letters of the time. Eye- opening.


On the character front, Sebastian's life just got a whole lot more complicated. He has found out information that changes everything he knew about himself. Also, Hero reappears. I loved how she was always one step ahead of him, even in the end. Her independent spirit and intelligence really added to the story. I enjoyed seeing them together on the page as she matches wits with Sebastian perfectly,


Definitely recommend.  Looking forward to the next one.



The Crossover

The Crossover - Kwame Alexander

Author: Kwame Alexander

Rating: 4 stars


2015 Newberry Medal Winner


This was so good.  


The story of twin African-American brothers told in verse, this book was different and wonderfully engaging. I really enjoyed seeing JB and Josh's different personalities come through the page.  


In short, JB and Josh are twins who play basketball. Their dad is ex-NBA and their mom is the school assistant principal. Their family is tight-knit and HAPPY. Trouble comes when one of the boys gets a girlfriend and the other feels left out, trouble also comes from other directions that I won't spoil. There were such positive messages about education and balancing a love of sports, making your character a priority, family loyalty - I loved it.


The story itself was bittersweet and that is all I will say to avoid spoilers. The lessons imparted by their parents were powerful and would serve kids well. When I read the reviews, I  couldn't help but smile seeing how excited educators were to bring this book into their classrooms. 


It's a quick read but a worthy one. Definitely recommend.




The Cruel Prince

— feeling amazing
The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air) - Holly Black

Author: Holly Black

Series: The Folk of the Air #1

Rating: 5 stars


I hadn’t read a YA book in a while. I also hadn’t read a fantasy book in a while. I had watched a review of this book on YouTube and it piqued my interest. So I thought I would give it a try.


I am glad I did.


This is a great, twisty YA novel about Fae court and intrigue, changing alliances and the young human girl caught in the middle who wants so badly to be accepted in the Fae world. Did I mention that world murders her parents before her eyes… in the opening chapter?


No? Yeah, this book is expert at delivering the unexpected. And it is littered with grey characters. Who is good? Who is bad? The story never allows you to hate anyone completely - or favor anyone without reservation.  Agendas abound and very few are who they appear to be.


The twists! The end of Book One left me reeling. The end of the book- that twist - nope didn’t see it coming.


I can see why everyone is so excited about this book. Once I started it, I stopped reading anything else til it was done. I finished it in two days- probably would have been one if work hadn't gotten in the way.


I recommend it if you are fans of the Court of Thorns and Roses series. This is a bit dark but it’s really good.

January 2018 Reading Recap

On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life - John O'Leary Searcher of the Dead: A Bess Ellyott Mystery - Nancy Herriman Murder in Bloomsbury: An Atlas Catesby Mystery - D. M. Quincy How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life - Catherine Price A Study in Death - Anna Lee Huber A Death in Norfolk - Ashley Gardner Dreaming of the Bones - Deborah Crombie Where Serpents Sleep - C.S. Harris Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living - Shauna Niequist, Brené Brown

I read 9 books this month. Yay!


My reading goal this year is low because I want to be able to read with little pressure.


This month my favorite read was On Fire: The Seven Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life.  I loved this book and highly recommend it.


I also enjoyed How To Break up With your Phone.  Great suggestions.


My mystery reads were all entertaining. I plan to catch up on these series in the months to come.


I am happy that three of my reads were nonfiction/self-help. 


My short-term goals are to read more classics, dive into the British Crime Mystery series and catch up on series I loved but have not gotten around to finishing.


Happy Reading!

Read 41 pages out of 583

Middlemarch - George Eliot

I had seen this book on quite a few “Best Novel Ever Written” lists. I want to develop a taste for reading more classics. So last week, I started this one.


I must say when we meet Celia and Dorothea, sisters who live with their uncle, I didn’t know what to make of them. They’re young and naive. Naturally their uncle wants to marry them off because what else is a woman to do. Dorothea - with her reluctance to get married  - didn’t strike me as forward thinking, she just had different tastes.  I understand why she chose Mr. Casaubon as a husband since he seemed to feed her need for intellectual discussion. However,  I didn’t like how she treated Sir James. I empathized with Celia, who tried to tell Dorothea she was being callous to Sir James' feelings when he was obviously interested in her.


I’m curious to see the ramifications of Dorothea’s actions. And also to see what Dorothea reaps as Mr. Casaubon does seem to disregard her plans for helping the town by building cottages. Ah, young and blind idealism.


I did enjoy this closing bit in Chapter 6:


“We mortals, men and women, devour many  a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, “Oh nothing!” Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts- not to hurt others.”

Reading Update 1.26.2017

This was a slow reading week.


I did read some, so some reviews should be coming next week.


On a bookish note, I did start listening to some book podcasts. One is the Slate Audio Book Club .  At work, I listened to a couple episodes on books I had already read. I really enjoyed the Eat, Pray, Love episode. I loved the snarkiness of the one reviewer who hated it and would not budge from his opinion. I also agreed with some of what he said. I also enjoyed the one on The Goldfinch. They made the work day fly by.


In addition, I listened to the BookRiot All the Books podcast which is doing great things for growing my TBR. One of my current reads is as a result of the 1.23.2018 episode.


Readingwise, I did DNF one book this week. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.  At first, I liked this memoir- then as it went on, he seemed to get fatalistic and depressed about getting older. I began to not want to finish reading it. After avoiding it for a few days, I just DNF’d it and kept it moving.


I hope everyone has a great weekend.


Happy reading!

How to Break Up With Your Phone

How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life - Catherine Price

How to Break Up With Your Phone

Author: Catherine Price

Rating: 4 stars


As someone who is always on their phone, I really enjoyed this book. My husband and I watched that segment on 60 Minutes about “Brain Hacking”. We were blown away by the tactics used by companies to keep you picking up your smartphone to check it and by how our attachment to our smartphones at times mirrors addictive behavior.


When this book appeared on Netgalley, I couldn’t request it fast enough as I wanted to learn more about this. I was pleasantly surprised to find this book cites that very 60 Minutes segment and expands on it. It was eye-opening to see what the studies gathered here had to say about how our smartphones affect our happiness and peace of mind.  While yes, it contains practical suggestions as to how to regain control of your life and stop being slaves to our phones, the strength of the book lies in the studies.


I also liked that this book did not tell you to break out your flip phones or to live like a monk. It just had a 30-day practical guide to reduce the time we spend on our phones and live in the moment. My husband and I decided to give it a go.


Overall I recommend.


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

Soupcon of Poison

A Soupçon of Poison: Kat Holloway Victorian Mysteries (Kat Holloway Below Stairs Mysteries) - Ashley Gardner, Jennifer Ashley

Author: Jennifer Ashley 

Series: Below Stair Mystery .5

Rating: 3.5 stars


This novella is the start to Jennifer Ashley's new historical mystery series.   


In case you don't know, Jennifer Ashley aka Ashley Gardner also writes The Captain Lacey Mysteries. I have raved about the Lacey mysteries since I began reading them a couple of years ago.


This new series, called the Below Stairs series, has been picked up by Berkeley and the first book Death Below Stairs came out on January 2nd of this year.


Death Below Stairs (A Below Stairs Mystery) by [Ashley, Jennifer]


I am excited to read it, especially after finishing this novella. In it, we meet Kat Holloway. She is a cook who becomes entangled in a mystery when her employer dies after eating a dinner she has prepared. Holloway sets about trying to clear her name. To help her, there is a young boy named James and his patron Daniel- a swoon-worthy addition to the cast and obvious love interest. Make no mistake, Daniel and his past are the true mystery here. I like how Ashley develops his character, dropping hints as to his background. I have an idea of what might be going on with him as he's definitely not what he appears to be, but I'm not sure and can't wait to read the first book to get more information. 


The mystery was decent - not her best after reading so many of the Lacey books, but it was a nice introduction to the characters and made me want more.