Carly Reads Here | January

2016 brought me some wonderful reads, but there's nothing quite like a clean slate and the excitement of wondering what books you'll read and love. The first three books I read at the end of December, but still wanted to review them, so they're also in this post.



The Magnolia Story | I looove Chip and Jo and I love watching Fixer Upper, but this book left something to be desired for me. It started off great and I laughed out loud more times than I can count because you can really hear their voices and banter come across the pages. I loved reading about how they got connected with HGTV and about how supportive Chip was of Jo when she wanted to open her very first shop. After a while every chapter started to feel like the same thing-- a constant theme of how broke they were and I started to get a little bored. I totally get the point they wanted to make-- they had to work really hard & have a lot of faith to get to where they are now, but I guess I was hoping for more. There just wasn't a lot of depth after a certain point which was disappointing, but I'm sure this isn't the last book we'll see from them. I think they're amazing people and love how supportive they are of each other & their family, and would still recommend this if you're a fan of their show.

The Mothers | Amazing writing combined with an amazing story about a teenage girl in California who loses her mother and tries to find herself. It involves her church's role in her life as well as friendship and first love/lust. Bennet's writing was effortless that it was hard to switch to another book after reading this. You build up so much empathy for the characters that it literally breaks your heart later in the story when they make some of their choices. The overall point of view is told from The Mothers-- a group of women at the church that's a central setting of the novel-- and it was so well done.

The Things We Wish Were True | I started the Kindle Unlimited trial in December and the cover of this book caught my eye. I had never heard of it before, but when I went to check it out on Goodreads I noticed Mattie had given it 5-stars. I didn't realize it at the time, but the download also came with narration, which was pretty cool (as someone who isn't crazy about audiobooks). It's a book told from multiple points of view and the narrator uses different voices for each character and I was not a fan of that, so I stuck to reading it for the most part. It's definitely a great feature though!

The story is told over one summer in a small town and kind of reminded me of Big Little Lies in the sense that it's just about the daily life of multiple people (& their kids) who are somehow connected, and you know something bad happened, but you don't find out what it is until the end. I thought the story moved at a great pace with just the right amount of suspense to keep you hooked. I found the ending to be a little bit anti-climatic in terms of the drama or reveals.

Still Life | This was my first book of 2017, and I had a hard time picking what to read first because I'm a bit superstitious I guess. I went with Still Life because it was due back to the library first and I've heard nothing but glowing reviews. It's a mystery about a suspicious death in a small town in Quebec.

I think maybe it was a timing thing, or maybe I'm just not that into the classic mystery genre, but I could not get into this book. I'd read a few pages and my mind would wander and then I'd forget what was happening. I stuck with it, and it took until the last 3 or 4 chapters, but it finally picked up and I can see myself (one day) reading the next book in the series. I enjoyed Penny's writing and really loved the setting and enjoyed reading about Quebec,

The Radius of Us | This contemporary young adult novel quickly caught my eye on Netgalley and I had so many feelings I could have probably filled up an entire blog post just on this book. It's told in alternating points of view between Phoenix, a college student from El Salvador seeking asylum in the US and Gretchen, a high school student who suffers from extreme panic attacks after an assault.

Right away there was a certain familiarity in the writing that made it enjoyable to read, though I often questioned whether or not there was too much going on. Both characters could have easily sustained a plot and storyline all on their own, though I was more interested in Phoenix's story and his struggle to leave behind gang violence in his hometown. While their attraction/relationship was total insta-love, I actually really bought into their chemistry and found myself really hoping for a happily ever after. I wasn't as crazy about the last third of the book; it felt rushed with not only the plot, but details from minor characters that felt randomly placed and not entirely authentic. I enjoyed reading a YA novel that touched on issues that are so relevant today, instead of the typical boy meets girl one summer saga. Marquardt is a huge advocate for immigration and that definitely shines through in her writing. Despite my few critiques, if you're a fan of YA I'd give this one a try for something different. [thank you netgalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review | release date: january 17]


reading challenges
Modern Mrs. Darcy 1/12
Read Harder 0/24

27 comments

  1. Thanks for your honest review of the magnolia one - I know SOOO many people that are / were reading it so I wanted to get some reviews before digging in!! I do like them, but I'm not sure if it's enough to read the book! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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  2. Thank you for all your good and honest reviews! You're off to a good start for reading this year. I guess I didn't see Magnolia Story the same way at the time, but now that you mention it, you're right that they kind of go in a circle with their finances the whole book. But, it was still fun to learn about their relationship and how they got started!

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  3. Adding The Things We Wish Were True and The Radius of Us to my list, both sound good! I'm reading Magnolia Story right now and I get what you're saying about it being a little repetitive but I'm still enjoying the light read.

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  4. I totally loved Magnolia Story but can see what you're saying. I think for me, I did it on audiobook & loved hearing it in their voices. I think that made a world of difference.

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  5. Definitely adding The Radius of Us to my reading list! I feel like so many people loved The Magnolia Story but I'm with you. I didn't even finish it because I couldn't stop my mind from wandering while reading it. <3, Pamela Sequins & Sea Breezes

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  6. I have The Mothers on hold from the library and really looking forward to it, I've heard so many good things.
    I'm sorry you had such a slow start with Still Life. I agree that the writing is a little slow but it sucks you in a little more with every book.

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  7. Totally understand where you are coming from with The Mothers - I just finished it last week and had very similar thoughts. I also see what you're saying about Still Life - even though I absolutely LOVE that series, it's a bit of a different genre - kind of like literary mystery I think!? and it gets infinitely better after book 4 ish.

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  8. So many good books over the past month! I have Chip & Jo's book on my Kindle but I haven't had the chance to read it yet. I have a feeling that I'll be thinking the same thing that you did about it getting repetitive, but I love them and will still read it eventually. The Mothers & Still Life have been on my TBR list for forever, so hopefully I can get to them soon. I don't remember when I added The Things We Wish Were True, but it's definitely moving up on my TBR list after your review!

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  9. I have no idea why I liked The Things We Wish Were True so much! I just couldn't put it down. Ha! I usually expect Kindle First books (which is where I got that one) to be kind of meh. Everything We Keep, which I saw you had been reading on GR, showed up to be $0 for Prime Members randomly and so I got it and it had the headphones icon too, so I thought I accidentally got an audiobook, but I think it's a combo like TTWWWT was for you.

    I'm so excited to read The Mothers!

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  10. The first Louise Penny was difficult for me too. I ended up liking it in the end but hope I like the next ones more.

    I liked The Things We Wish Were True as well and it's not my typical book.

    LOVE The Mothers.

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  11. I'm bummed to hear that Chip and Joanna's book fell a bit short, but love that you can hear their banter while reading. That's what I love about them! <3
    Green Fashionista

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  12. Great reviews! I've been wanting to read that Mothers book and you've just convinced me to add it to my queue of books to read on Goodreads! :]

    xo Deborah
    Coffee, Prose, and Pretty Clothes

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  13. i had a hard time picking my first book as well! i had a crappy first book last year so i wanted a good one this year haha. The Mothers is on my list!

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  14. The Mothers sounds intriguing! I've seen that cover around but had no idea what the book was about. I will definitely have to check it out. Great reading month!

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  15. I just downloaded the things we wish were true yesterday! I haven't started it yet. I actually just commented to Jonathan while watching TV the other day that I've never watched Fixer Upper/Joanna Gaines at all. And everyone seems obsessed with her/them. It's disappointing that their book left something to be desired though. I feel like that happens often with stories like theirs. Without the proper guidance, the story can get lost in a lot of unnecessary blabbering.

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  16. I skipped The Magnolia Story for that reason--I had a feeling it would be more fluff than filler. I'm not reading anything atm but am doing audiobooks.

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  17. I love your diverse picks. I don't watch Fixer Upper, but I've seen tons of people reading this book. Bummer it was more fluff. I want to start Louise Penny, but don't ead tons of mystery myself. XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

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  18. I'm next in line for The Mothers at my library and cannot wait to dive into it. I've seen nothing but rave reviews and it's also one of my picks for Erin's 6.0 Challenge. I enjoyed Still Life and plan to continue with the series. My one real quibble was Rachel (the female cop - the name may be wrong) who was seriously a stupid pill. I'm pretty sure The Things We Wish Were True is already on my TBR and I'm adding The Radius of Us to it as well!

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  19. The Radius of Us seems like my kind of book. And YES to The Mothers!

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  20. I can't wait to read The Mothers after reading so many good reviews. Still Life sounds really good too. I have The Things We Wish Were True on my NetGalley list, so I definitely need to read it soon. :)

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  21. Ooh, I'm trying to read 100 books this year; will definitely be on the lookout for these books!

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  22. Thanks for sharing! I'm really curious about The Mothers, as I hear great things.

    -Lauren

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  23. It gets so much better after Still Life...

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  24. I've seen so many people talk about "Chip and Jo" and this book, and I've never watched one episode of Fixer Upper, so I always feel a lack of attachment to the review. But, yours felt so genuine and honest. Thank you.
    The Things We Wish... and The Mothers are already on my tbr.

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  25. the mothers is definitely on my TBR, and the radius of us sounds interesting!!

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  26. I can't wait to read The Mothers, it's been on my list for a while now!

    -- Dara || www.peoniesandhoneybees.com

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