Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

Source: Goodreads

Slaughterhouse-Five is a lively, if strange, jaunt across time through Billy Pilgrim’s life. In the middle of World War II, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time. Although the rest of the world experiences Billy’s life linearly, Billy himself – his soul, if you will – hops around his own timeline. Sometimes he is in the forests of Germany, sometimes he is at his daughter’s wedding, sometimes he is on the alien planet of Tralfamador, and sometimes he is in his bunk inside Slaughterhouse Five just before the bombing of Dresden.


The overarching theme of this book seems to be the question of whether Billy is actually unstuck in time like he seems, or if he is suffering severe PTSD from the bombing of Dresden that makes him feel that way. The reader is never given an explicit answer. Whatever the actual reason for Billy’s obsession with the Tralfamadorians, there is no denying that this book is written in a confusing way. Billy even has a run-in with the author which just lends to the meta-filled non-plot.

I’ve been hearing about this book in school and in the book world for years, but I didn’t pick it up until a friend of a roommate recommended it based on what he saw on my shelves. I think I had a look of consternation on my face the entire time I was reading it, and ultimately I think I got exactly nothing out of it except for the fact that I can now say I’ve read it. If unreliable narrators are your jam than you might like it, but I can’t steer you in any particular direction regarding it.


HHC Rating: 2 Stars.

Gift of the Shaper – D.L. Jennings

Source: Goodreads

Thornton Woods has always lived in the small village of Highglade, where he assists his father, Olson, in their forge. On a routine trip into the neighboring town of Lusk, Thornton and his best friend, Miera, barely escape from black-clad thugs who claim to want something other than money from the pair. Their return trip moves even more dangerous, and by the time they reach Highglade, Thornton’s father is nowhere to be found. Convinced the thugs have kidnapped him, the young apprentice will stop at nothing to find the only family he has. With the help of Ynara and Kethras, two of the near-mythical cat-like race known as Kienari, Thornton and Miera set off on the thugs’ trails. Along the way, they make discoveries about their world, it’s creation, and the parts they must play in it’s continued existence.


I first discovered this book through Instagram, of all places. The author had reached out to me about a book we mutually loved and later offered to send me a copy of Gift of the Shaper. I became wrapped up in the semester’s coursework, but we’ve stayed in touch and I was able to read his book during my Christmas break. You guys. This book is really well done. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve become friends with the author. Sure, there are a few moments where I’m pretty sure I missed a character walking into a room or mounting/dismounting a horse or two, but those are tiny things that probably only I would catch.

Gift of the Shaper is a debut, high fantasy novel, set in a world where select groups of people can channel the magic of creation or destruction to do their will. Into the middle of this conflict are thrust a young blacksmith’s apprentice and his childhood best friend, completely unaware of the danger lurking just out of sight. The world building is smoothly done, the reader learning about the land through characters and their actions, rather than being info-dumped on. The characters themselves are strong stock, each one an individual with physical differences and personality quirks that make this book one of the most racially and culturally diverse that I’ve read in a while.

In addition to the rich world and cast, Jennings implemented some of my most favorite tropes, which I won’t discuss here to avoid spoilers. There were characters I loved, and characters I loved to hate, like Captain Durakas, who may be in the running for the most sexist person in Gal’Dorok. But every single person had a purpose and a connection to the story, and that’s what made me love every second of it. Now I just have to wait for Jennings to finish writing the sequel.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Top 10 Reads of 2018


Despite working full-time and attending graduate school, I managed to read 36 books in 2018. I’m pretty happy with that number given 16 of those were in October or later. I think this means I’m learning to balance everything a little bit better. The fact that I’m getting around to sharing them before May is a visible improvement as well. You all just got gift certificates to bookstores for the holidays, right? Now you have something to spend them on! In no particular order, here are my Top 10 Reads of 2018.

1 – Sorcery & Cecelia, or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Magic is in the air in Regency England, and I am totally into it. Kate and Cece are two cousins whose narrative is told solely through letters written to each other. The escapades these two get into rival some romance novels and magical adventure novels. The letter format is a little strange to get used to, but once you’re in it, it blows you away.

2 – A Dark and Stormy Murder – Julia Buckley
A struggling writer is handed the opportunity of a lifetime when her best friend sets her up with a job as the assistant and ghostwriter to her favorite author of all time. Chaos ensues when someone shows up murdered on the property. Small towns, Gothic houses, lots of mystery and a dash of romance set this series in motion. Always a recipe for success in my book.

3 – The Secret – Julie Garwood
If your name is some variation of Julie/Julia, chances are I read and loved your book in 2018. This one takes a well-born British lady and drops her into the Scottish Highlands. Secrets and midwifery abound, as do hefty doses of rivalry and romance. No secret that this is one of my all time favorites, and my mom’s favorite as well. A review is forthcoming!

4 – Supergirl: Being Super – Mariko Tamaki, Illustrated by Joëlle Jones
Aside from the obvious parts of this origin story, I’d like to take a moment to truly appreciate the diversity in the town of Midvale. Sure, Kara still looks like the quintessential American cheerleader, but her friends and colleagues have varying appearances, making Midvale much more realistic than in past renderings.

5 – The Bear and The Nightingale – Katherine Arden
As if you all didn’t already know of my love for fairytale retellings, let this be a testament. The Winternight Trilogy features god-like sorcerers, dangerous winters in the Russian highlands, and one girl who is the key to peace between life and death, should she accept her fate… And she’s not sure she wants to.

6 – Geekerella – Ashley Poston
An absolutely wonderful Cinderella retelling, bringing together all of my favorite things: fairytales, Sci-Fi fandoms, and food.

7 – Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Except for a strange sex-doll scene that I could have done without, this book was exceptional. The 80s references are all on-point, and I’m sure I even missed a few that I might catch in a re-read. While the movie was a totally different experience later in the year, the novel was a Sci-Fi and Game lovers dream.

8 – Virgin River – Robyn Carr
Small mountain town chock-full of retired marines, check. Old Doctor who needs a young assistant, check. The Virgin River series is different from others because it’s not just about the romances, but about rebuilding a town that has all but gone to seed. Each book builds on the businesses and townsfolk in a new twist on a constant front-running genre. A review is forthcoming.

9 – The Lido – Libby Page
I can’t get over how wonderful this book was. Showing loss, depression, and anxiety in a completely understandable and real way while depicting a town on the verge of community collapse, it rocked my socks. Libby Page is a debut author and I am already dying to read anything and everything else she is willing to write.

10 – The Viscount Who Loved Me – Julia Quinn
This may be the second book in a series, but it is undoubtedly my favorite in The Bridgerton Saga. The characters are so colorful and their actions are laugh-out-loud funny. Kate and Anthony are hands-down my favorite Bridgerton couple, and my face always hurts from smiling while I read this one.


What were some of your favorite reads in 2018? I’m always looking for great recommendations!


Other Best of the Year Lists:
Top 10 Reads of 2017

The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgerton, #2) – Julia Quinn

Source: Goodreads

Anthony Bridgerton has always known he would die young. He has no plans to fall in love because he can’t bear the thought of leaving someone like his father left his mother – alone. He will marry, of course, to bear an heir for the family line, but he knows he won’t live to see the child grown. As the head of the Bridgerton family since he was 18, Anthony is a hardened man with a healthy appetite for women. He just needs a young, pretty thing to raise his children and make his mother happy.

Kate Sheffield has been the head of her small family since her father’s death. She loves her stepmother and half-sister more than life but is overly protective of them, especially when her stepmother convinces them both to have a London Season. Overshadowed by her younger sister, the diamond of the season, Kate is happy just to attend the parties and make a few friends before they return to the country for good. Then Anthony Bridgerton, a Viscount and pronounced rake, not to mention the catch of the season, begins angling for her sister’s affection and Kate smells trouble. Her efforts to prevent Anthony from sullying her sister’s reputation or breaking her sister’s heart have an entirely unintended effect, however, when Kate quite suddenly becomes engaged to the man herself after he loses his composure in the presence of a bee.


This book is cheesy and adorable, and to two main characters are just like puzzle pieces looking for each other all their lives. I always start this series thinking I could never love anyone more than Daphne, and then along comes Kate, who completely turns Anthony’s world upside down and confounds him to no end. Kate is the kind of character who sticks with you for years and years after reading. She is quiet and calm, but also aggressive and outspoken when the moment demands it. She is no wilting flower, but even heroines need saving some of the time.

I return to The Bridgerton Saga again and again because it has the trifecta of great writing: magnificent world-building that doesn’t overwhelm the reader, vibrant characters that are interesting on their own but shine in the presence of each other, and plots that are personalized to each character’s unique personality and position in the world, drawing everything together with a little bit of the magic of fate.


HHC Rating: 5 stars.



Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – The Duke And I
Book 3 – An Offer From A Gentleman (Review available 2/12)
Book 4 – Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Review available 3/5)
Book 5 – To Sir Phillip, With Love (Review available 3/26)
Book 6 – When He Was Wicked (Review available 4/16)
Book 7 – It’s In His Kiss (Review available 5/7)
Book 8 – On The Way To The Wedding (Review available 5/28)

The Lido – Libby Page

Source: Goodreads

Kate Matthews has lived in Brixton, London, for a year and knows no one. She’s a writer for the local paper, and she loves interviewing people, but she’s yet to be assigned anything she can sink her teeth into.
Rosemary Peterson has lived in Brixton all her life. She’s seen the neighborhood change as wars, love, and businesses came and went, and every day she swims at the lido (an outdoor pool), where some of her dearest memories were made.
Kate and Rosemary’s worlds collide the day it is announced that the lido will close. Kate has been assigned to write about the closure and it’s effect on the town, and she starts her story by interviewing Rosemary. A single meeting changes both of their lives, and the two women come to realize they will do everything within their power to keep the lido from closing.

I picked up this book by accident. My friend Hannah and I went to the movie theater to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and they were handing them out for free at the ticket counter. Why, I may never know. Hannah and I went home and devoured the book. It was heartfelt, deep, and shockingly real. Rosemary deals with the loss of her husband, and Kate deals with crippling anxiety. They both find their focus and community by swimming at the lido, and it’s threatened closure sets their lives in downward spirals. The two women find meaning in their mutual friendship and build new lives in a town they thought was falling apart around them.
I still can’t believe Page is a debut author. Her writing speaks of years of experience, and the way she gets into characters’s heads is enchanting. I had trouble putting this book down and nearly started it over again when I finished, it was that good. I for one can’t wait to see what Page writes next.
Stay tuned for a live video discussion between Hannah, myself, and our friend Hallee once she finishes reading it. We’ll talk plot, writing style, and marketing strategies.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Watch Hollow – Gregory Funaro

Source: Goodreads

Lucy and Oliver Tinker live with their father at his clock repair shop, scraping by selling antiques ever since their mother passed away. When the rich Mr. Quigley walks in at closing one day and offers Mr. Tinker a fortune to fix a giant clock at his home in Rhode Island, they can’t say no. Blackford house is situated in the middle of nowhere, falling apart at the seams and without electricity. The forest around the house is barren and quiet despite it being the height of summer, but Lucy is determined to make Blackford house home. Then the wooden animal statues she finds around the house start talking, and Oliver meets a mysterious boy who lives in the dark woods. Before long the Tinkers are drawn into a centuries old war between light and dark, and the fate of Blackford house hangs in the balance.

I received an ARC of Watch Hollow from the author in exchange for an honest review, but this is something I would have eventually picked up anyway. The characters are lovable and yet complex for a middle-grade book, and I love how the world itself is alive. The plot moved well and I was quickly swept up in the Tinker’s adventures. Funaro plans a sequel, making this a duology, and The Maze of Shadows is sure to be just as good when it comes out next year.

My favorite part of this book was definitely the clock animals. The whole idea of light and dark being incarnate in them, balancing the powers and powering the clock and providing electricity for the house, not to mention the naming conventions – Torsten Six, Fennish Seven, Tempest Crow – Everything about them is just fantastic. My second favorite part was obviously the shadowood vs. sunstone debate, and the ash-acorns. At ~250 pages, this book was the perfect length to get wrapped up in. I would have loved to read this as a child, and it’s still great as an adult! I will definitely be picking up the sequel next year.

Available from January 12th wherever books are sold!

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
The Maze of Shadows (Available 2020)

The Duke and I (Bridgerton, #1) – Julia Quinn

Bridgerton-1-The-Duke-And-I-Julia-Quinn
Source: Goodreads

Daphne wants nothing more than to marry and raise a family. As the fourth child in the Bridgerton clan of eight and the first girl, she knows a lot about men – from her three older brothers. Unfortunately, this knowledge makes her a pal to the men who would court her, and she has been hunting a husband for two years now without success, much to the chagrin of her mother, the widowed Lady Bridgerton.

Simon, Duke of Hastings, has returned to England after the recent death of his father, whom he despised above all else. After six years on the continent, he is ready to get back to visiting his friends and his clubs. The problem, of course, is that at the age of 28 many of his friends have married and now possess young wives who scheme to introduce the new duke to potential future duchesses.

After a significant encounter, Simon and Daphne hatch a plan. They will pretend to form an attachment. The women will stop hounding Simon, and the men will jealously pursue Daphne, finally viewing her as a potential bride instead of a best friend who happens to be a woman. The biggest problem, of course, is Daphne’s family. Her eldest brother, Anthony, is Simon’s best friend, and her remaining six siblings – as well as her mother – take an immediate shine to the idea of having Simon as a permanent fixture in their lives. Simon’s reasons for fleeing to the continent in the first place will pose a challenge as well, as his past haunts his every decision.

Julia Quinn is one of my all-time favorite writers. The Bridgeton clan, as well as Lady Whistledown and her gossip paper, are some of my favorite characters ever written, and their emotions are palpable as you read their stories. Every character is richly developed, with complicated, deep relationships between every sibling and acquaintance. Daphne and Simon’s story is one that dragged me whole-heartedly into the realm of Regency Romance and has enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined.

I first discovered this series in high school or college when I swiped it from my mother, who had, in turn, swiped it from my grandmother, and I am overjoyed to be coming back to them now. Their depth and breadth of emotion and action are just what I needed to kickstart me out of my reading slump.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Other Reviews in this series:

Book 2 – The Viscount Who Loved Me (review available on Jan. 22nd)

Book 3 – An Offer From A Gentleman (review available on Feb. 12th)

Book 4 – Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (review available on Mar. 5th)

Book 5 – To Sir Phillip, With Love (review available on Mar. 26th)

Book 6 – When He Was Wicked (review available on Apr. 16th)

Book 7 – It’s In His Kiss (review available on May 7th)

Book 8 – On The Way To The Wedding (review available on May 28th)