I’ve reached my Goodreads Challenge reading goal for the year!

Actually, I’m one book ahead! I set a goal for 20 books this year, which was fewer than what I hoped to read but which I thought was actually attainable. BUT, we’re less than halfway through the year and I’ve already read 21, which I’m super excited about. My list of things to read is ever-growing, so I’m interested to see what count I get to by the end of the year.

Here are the cover shots from Goodreads of all the books I’ve read. I seem to remember last year it let me make a collage, but maybe that feature is only available at the end of the year? If I’ve written a review, images link back! Looks like I’m behind on my reviews (no surprise there) and like I’m really into romances this year…blame it on pregnancy hormones making me sappy?

Colorado Summer Stars by Jill Haymaker   Little City by the Lake by Celia Wilkins   Stay with Me by Carolyn Astfalk   Wild Things by Bruce Handy   Letting Go and Letting God by Kathleen Atkinson OSB   The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan   Marta's Ride by Gordon L. Rottman   The Hardest Ride by Gordon L. Rottman   The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway   Rejoice and Be Glad by Pope Francis   The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin   Twenty-One Trees by Linda Cousine   Sora's Quest by T.L. Shreffler   When I see your Face by Devika Fernando   The Alcatraz Coup by Patricia Loofbourrow   Sweet Masterpiece by Connie Shelton   The Becomer by David Michael Miller   Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis   F in Exams by Richard Benson   Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley   Prairie Girl by William Anderson

Book Review: Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley

I’ve probably said a million times that one of the things I love about being a book-blogger is the opportunity to read new and interesting books by indie authors. Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley is a perfect example of why!   
Spaghetti Head

I received an ARC of the book from Sarah after weighing in on her book blurb via Twitter and I’m SO GLAD I volunteered to take the few minutes to comment on her blurb and get to “meet” Sarah, and through her, Nell and Sid/Cyd.

This book truly defies classification. There are sci-fi elements, as it’s set in the future with all sorts of new technology and gadgets — some of it scares me, to be honest. I’ve read and blogged a bit about AI before – freaks me out. No doubt it takes a lot of creativity to come up with the future world and all it’s accompanying technological advances (which, truthfully, seem mostly plausible).

Beyond sci-fi, there’s the whole post-apocalyptic thing – which really is two-fold. First, there’s the new world order and governance structure (The System) that comes about. Tyley creates an entirely new system of world government, taking gender, technology, and–she seems to argue–inevitable power struggles into account. Along with this, she adeptly brings to life the societal structures and shows us how people actually live in this new world order. The second and equally important part of the post-apocalyptic story: what was The Disaster? This Tyley does equally well. It’s introduced very creatively, weaving the backstory seamlessly into the action of the story. It’s also very believable — I think most readers are at least vaguely familiar with the natural phenomenon (no spoilers!) that Tyley employs to bring about the destruction of the Earth as we know it. It was one of my favorite parts, a super important and fully-fleshed out history for what could easily have been treated as an afterthought to the story.

Sci-fi, apocalypse… what else? Romance! Motherhood! Relationships! These are central themes without being so overpowering that the book would only appeal to women. The book has so many angles to it that I think it could be universally enjoyed.

The parts of the book that are most memorable and with which I identify the most involve mental health and mental health treatment. Nell attends a multi-week mental health “retreat” of sorts to help her deal with her inner voice and unravel the “spaghetti” in her head. The mental imaging techniques used in the treatment would be AMAZING if they truly existed – I couldn’t help but wonder what my own treatment would look like with such techniques available. Having experienced a significant amount of intensive mental health treatment, I also felt that Tyley’s portrayal of therapy techniques, as well as the characters’ varying paths to recovery–including how much effort they must expend, even when treatment is “over”–were spot-on just like so much of the rest of the book. It’s believable and really realistic.

Overall, there are so many complicated aspects to the novel that Sarah Tyley weaves together flawlessly. I am impressed by the creativity and depth of knowledge she demonstrates in writing such a complicated and yet utterly relatable story, not to mention the incredible amount of effort it must have taken to put that story into words and edit it to a point where it reads so smoothly!

Five stars!

** Thank you to Sarah Tyley for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: S.I.N.G.L.E. by Lindsay Marie Miller

This is rather appalling, but I read SINGLE more than a year and a half ago (eek!) and I’m just getting to reviewing it now (remember my list?). I was pregnant with my youngest, who is now 17 months old, and my husband was away on a trip. I always have trouble sleeping when he’s away so I read this book in one or two nights late into the night, and I really enjoyed it (despite the cover, which I hadn’t seen, and usually is not the kind of book I tend to pick up).

Single (Love in Seattle, #1)

Basically, Jessie is a single college senior who makes a pact with her roommate not to date for the rest of the semester and then BAM! meets the love of her life the next day. The rest of the story is sort of a typical back-and-forth, will they-won’t they get together kind of love story and not what I usually read. I know, ringing endorsement here, right?

The thing is, it’s not the story in and of itself that won me over with this book, but rather the depth of the characters. I had reviewed another of Lindsay Marie Miller’s books, Jungle Eyes, and it left me sort of ambivalent. This was totally different – reading SINGLE made me want to read more of what Lindsay writes. The depth and complexity of her writing greatly increased and I thought the characters were perfect: both Jessie and Graham are truly college students. Now, I met my husband freshman of year of college and we married right after graduation (we were engaged by the time Jessie and Graham meet!) so I’m not knocking college students and their love lives 🙂 But Jessie and Graham and the unique challenges they face due to their state in life were perfectly written. I could identify with Jessie (when thinking back to my younger self), and I think Lindsay is almost completely on the mark in her attempt to write Graham as the “ideal” boyfriend/partner (as she states in her introduction).

I do remember thinking that Lindsay’s introduction had more feeling than the book itself, but that the story as a whole showed a great improvement in her writing and made me want to read more of her work. I appreciated that the sex scenes (there’s A LOT of sex) were not explicit, which I think was also appropriate for the story.

I also remember thinking that a high-school-aged me would have pined after Graham as “the” perfect boyfriend, but that reading the book I felt no such yearning but rather a certainty that I have my perfect partner: I married him almost twelve years ago.

Four stars!

*Thanks to author Lindsay Marie Miller for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest (and very belated) review!