off the shelf: what I’ve read so far – 2023 reads

Once again, I didn’t mean to take 5 months to post a reading update, but here we are. Some of these are briefer than others because I failed to write my notes as I read, but the ratings are as arbitrarily cakey as ever.

Currently reading

I Didn’t Do the Thing Today: Letting Go of Productivity Guilt by Madeleine Dore

Ironically, I set this one aside for a month or so because I couldn’t do the thing… I’m almost done and it’s been a great read so far and a solid reminder to let go of what isn’t serving.


The Masterful Cat is Depressed Again Today, vol. 1 by 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

If you’re looking for a sweet, slice-of-life manga about a somewhat hopeless mess of a 20-something and her human-sized cat, this is the one for you. Randomly picked it based on the title and it became an insta-fave. It’s only 5 volumes long, so worth a read if you’re looking for a short manga series.

Sweat and Soap, vol. 1-6 by Kintetsu Yamada 🍰🍰🍰🍰

One of my coworkers recommended this series after I mentioned that I like the more adult romance manga. It’s the story of a girl who suffers from excess sweating and a perfume expert who is captivated by her scent. Shenanigans ensue. It’s 11 volumes long, so I’m working my way through it.

Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai 🍰🍰🍰

I had mixed feelings about this one at first. Thought about DNF-ing at first, but I was stuck at the Dr.’s office and it was on my Kindle so I kept going and am happy I did. I prefer Alisha Rai’s earlier books (pre illustrated cover era), but this was a fun change and I enjoyed the heist element.

Rowankind by Jacey Bedford 🍰🍰🍰

I started reading this one in December 2021 and I kept setting it aside, distracted by new books and library holds, until I considered DNF-ing it. But I persisted and here we are. Book 2 is the strongest in the series IMHO, but if you’re into alternate British history with a fantasy element, and want to read something that isn’t set in Medieval England, give it a try.

The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

Britta and Wes were just what I needed to get out of a reading slump. Jess Owens mentioned this book in one of her reading vlogs and I was curious so I ordered it from the library and set my other books aside. It was perfect. A sweet but spicy slow burn romance between a writer embarking on a body positivity-inspired wellness journey and the CEO/fitness coach who takes her on as his client. You can feel the tension rolling off the page as they fall for each other.


Get a Life, Chloe Brown 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰 and Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert 🍰🍰🍰🍰

Lumping these two together because I binged them one after the other. Why only books 1 and 3? Because I read book 2 when it came out and had these on my TBR for-ever! Talia Hibbert can do no wrong. She gets the humor just right and hits all the marks with the romance. I loved Chloe and could relate to her struggles with chronic pain and really enjoyed Eve’s journey of discovery.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

Is Ali Hazelwood my new fave? Yes. Yes, she is. Tropey and familiar, but just what I needed when I was going through a rough time and desperately wanted something light and fluffy. I also love the side characters that Ali Hazelwood creates. They’re just a fleshed out as the mains and it makes for a good side plot.

A Sinister Revenge by Deanna Raybourn 🍰🍰🍰

YES! After DNF-ing the last installment, I’m happy to find that this one reignited my love for the mix of mystery and sexual tension that Deanna Raybourn does best. However, I kind of wish I read the book, rather than listened to the audio because the narrator’s rendition of male voices really messed with the one in my head. I’m not sure I would’ve gotten behind Stoker if the narrator’s rendition had been my first experience of the character.

Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren 🍰🍰🍰

I did it. I finally found the Christina Lauren series that checks my box. I don’t know if it’s a reflection of the current trends in romance publishing or a sign of my penchant for high heat reads, but I’ve never been able to get into any of the other books I’ve tried by Christina Lauren. This being their first published series, I can finally see why they got so popular within the romance reader community. Boss billionaire romance isn’t my usual trope, but this one does it for me.

Beautiful Stranger by Christina Lauren 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

This. This is the one that ticks all my boxes. If I had to recommend just one in this series, this would be it. Genuinely spicy with well-developed characters.

Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren 🍰🍰🍰

Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it. I’m not into the “I knew her as a kid” trope, so this one didn’t quite land for me.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

I was ambivalent about this one for a while, but I finally gave in to the hype and have 0 regrets! This was just the fun sort of campy romance I think of when I think of true RomCom, with the perfect amount of angst to balance it out. So glad I gave it a try.


The Christmas One Night Stand by L. Steele

Got about a third of the way through this one but the plot dragged a bit and too much was tied to other couples in what I figure was an earlier part of the series or a related, sister series. 🤷‍♀️ I lost interest in the story.

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

I DNF-ed her second book and now her third. I think it’s safe to say Helen Hoang’s series isn’t for me.

On Hold

Chase Wilde Comes Home by Jennifer Ryan

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off the shelf: books I read in 2022 – a recap list

books I read in 2022 (more or less)

My last reading update was posted in March and then life kind of ran away from me… I’m making no promises, but I’d like to do better this year. For the sake of closure, here is a very brief, purely subject list of my favorite reads, re-reads, and disappointments of 2022.

You’ll notice that my reading trended towards fantasy romance and romance for the most part. This list does not include non-fiction that I reviewed or read for work, but those happened too.

🎧 indicates audiobook

some titles are linked to my original review

Books I Loved in 2022

These are my 5 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰 reads. The reads that got me out of a funk. The books that made me want to stay up late. The ones I purchased in print and added to the permanent collection…

  • From Lukov with Love by Marianna Zapata
  • Lothaire by Kresley Cole 🎧
  • Dark Skye by Kresley Cole 🎧 (this one hit all my kinks. I listened to it twice(!) and bought it in print)
  • A Promise of Darkness and the rest of the Dark Court Rising Series by Bec McMaster
  • Sapphire Flames and the rest of the Catalina arc of the Hidden Legacy Series by Ilona Andrews (🎧 and book)
  • The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling (so happy I loved this as much as The Ex Hex)

Re-reads I read for comfort and fun

Disappointments and DNFs

indicates DNF

  • The Impossible Impostor by Deanna Raybourn ❌
  • Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne ❌
  • Theirs for the Night by Katee Robert
  • It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover ❌
  • Take Me Home Tonight by Erika Kelly ❌

off the shelf: what I read – January + February 2021

Apparently, I never got around to posting January’s books amid all the new year excitement (and health drama), so here they are along with February’s reads.

Still Reading

Lore by Alexandra Bracken – Of course, all my holds came in at the same time… Loving this urban fantasy take on a Greek-mythology inspired Olympic murder fest. Basically, every 7 years the remaining gods battle it out, but the stakes are higher than ever.

The Art of Flaneuring: How to Wander with Intention and Discover a Better Life by Erika Owen – I’ve been reading this book on and off for the last year. It’s not fault of the book, it’s actually quite enjoyable, I’m just not in the frame of mind to read a book about exploring your city on foot when I can’t explore my city…


The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas – I never care about spoilers, but when I saw that this was the latest book on Heaving Bosoms, I paused and picked up my Kindle. I LOVED this book. St. Vincent is my surly hero. It hit all the marks for me–enemies to lovers, alpha hero who wants to make you comfortable, mildly high stakes. Just a win on all counts.

Naughty Brits by Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Louisa Edwards, Tessa Gratton, and Sierra Simone – I really enjoyed these stories, particularly Tessa Graton’s, but I couldn’t finish Sierra Simone’s. It hit a few too many hard limits for me and I couldn’t get behind the story. Especially loved the way the novellas evoked various parts of Britain and the British Museum. Really makes me want to put London at the top of my list after the pandemic (I visited in 2005 and have been meaning to go back since).

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo – This book made me mad in the best way possible. Highly recommend! The opening is a little quirky, but so powerful by the time you get to the end. I can’t stop recommending it.

American Girl, Molly Collection by Valerie Tripp – Molly and Felicity are the two original AG’s I never got around to reading. I was feeling the need for a WWII story to remind me that the world has survived some pretty grim times… Is it just me or is Molly a little mean? There’s the usual didactic element to each volume, but Molly is a bit of a spoiled bully, something I didn’t get from the other girls in the original collection. Am I just being nostalgic?

Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day by Ken Mogi – I love starting the year with a self-improvement title. This came out during the wave of books about culturally inspired habits for happy lives… think Hygge and Lagom. Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy that encourages a balanced state of mind. It’s a quick, educational little book with lots of insight into the Japanese way of life.


Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole – this is the one that Sarah Maclean calls “Torture Island”. There’s definitely torture, not that this series is particularly light in general. I still enjoyed it. The reincarnation plot makes for some interesting stakes on top of the paranormal hunter/vivisection subplot.



Well, not strictly true but the one book I DNFed ended up being number insert double digit here in a series and completely impenetrable, so I returned it to the library.

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writing: writespiration and pinterest

Pinterest is one of my online happy places. I make regular boards for the podcast, but one of my writerly pursuits is curating boards for WIPs and saving writing tips for easy access.

Current project: “Red Dragon”

note: my WIPs have a “code name” before they have a title. There are no dragons in this novel. *shrug emoji*


For inspiration, tips, and more, follow “Writing and Fiction”

loves & latest: April 8, 2019

monday musings




A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica Speedwell is back! Deanna Raybourn is an instant read for me. The minute I learned A Dangerous Collaboration was being released, I placed it on hold at my local library. The only bad thing about loving this series is having to wait for the next book.


planner stickers

It was bound to happen. You can’t watch planning videos without being bitten by the sticker bug. However, I will exercise restraint, not matter how glittery the pack.

on the web


I’m a regular viewer of the #authortube community, but lately I’ve been making it part of my practice. So much to learn, so many writers to learn from. Lately, I’ve been deep-diving into Heart Breathings, iWriterly, and The Creative Penn.



bluestocking-circleListen to the latest episode of The Bluestocking Circle Podcast – Episode 20: Pacific Rim… our second, unanimous 4-sock rating 🙂 .

If you want to hear three lady nerds talk about their favorite books and movies, give us a listen on Podomatic, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Also available on YouTube.

Follow us @bluesoxcircle on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

video: off the shelf reviews – battle of the budget books

I’ve been on a financial planning/budgeting kick for a few months. I want to make 2019 the year I up my investing game and the first place to start is research. Here are four of the best books I’ve read so far — these are practical, useful, and provide just enough insight to help you get started on a debt-free journey, and detailed enough to help a first time investor understand the finance lingo.


The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Women and Money by Suze Orman
Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry
The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money by Chelsea Fagan and Lauren Ver Hage

What are your favorite budget/finance books? Comment below! I’m always looking for recommendations.

loves & latest: March 11, 2019

monday musings



audiobooks in general

I used to hate the thought of someone reading to me (personal weirdness involving mouth sounds), then I discovered the magic of audiobooks and the talented people who narrate them. Audiobooks are making my commute 100% better, giving me 2 hours of “passive” reading a day, and allowing me to catch up on podcast assignments without worrying about adding another book to my reading list.

I download my audiobooks for free through my library’s Libby, Hoopla, and audiobook lending programs.


establishing a beauty budget

I recently come to terms with my beauty spending and realized that I am not an all-or-nothing person. I am project panning and looking to keep my spending to a minimum, but I don’t need to fall into total austerity. This is an area that revealed how far my Upholder tendency goes, as I found myself experiencing [unnecessarily] obsessive thoughts regarding my spending in this area. Setting a budget is the middle-ground for me.


writer youtube and blogs

As I prepare for a new writing project, I’ve been diving into the writer community, looking for inspiration, lessons, and new ways to approach my work. One of my recent favorites is Sarah Cannon’s Heart Breathings blog and channel – a great resource for anyone who wants to start work on a writing project.

I recently purchased her HB90 planner template (because she’s also a planner addict) and can’t wait to set it up for April (it’s a 3 month, 90 day planner).



bluestocking-circleListen to the latest episode of The Bluestocking Circle Podcast – Episode 19: Star Trek & Galaxy Quest… we have so many thoughts.

If you want to hear three lady nerds talk about their favorite books and movies, give us a listen on Podomatic, Apple Podcasts,Google Play, or Spotify. Also available on YouTube.

Follow us @bluesoxcircle on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

video: The Four Tendencies

I became aware of Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies during the summer of 2018 and was fascinated by the idea that people respond to internal and external motivations in different ways. The Four Tendencies is not about changing your habits or personality, but about learning what drives you and how to work with people who respond differently to internal and/or external factors.

Gretchen Rubin offered a Four Tendencies course last fall and I was quick to sign up. I find the whole concept really interesting, and am looking into ways to apply the Tendencies in a work setting.

If you’re wondering, I’m an Upholder. My partner is a Questioner.

Have you heard of the Four Tendencies? If so, what are your thoughts? I’d love to know.

loves & latest: December 10, 2018

monday musings



The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

I love a good time-slip and this book is the perfect blend of history, mystery, and romance. I had a serious book hangover after reading it, and can’t wait to read more by Nicola Cornick (she has a long history as a romance writer, but this is her second work of historical fiction). Her first historical novel, House of Shadows, is equally engaging.


Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure

I love blush. I love blush almost as much as I love lipstick  (and that’s saying a lot). Mood Exposure might just bump Benefit Dandelion from my holy grail makeup collection (not least of which, because Hourglass is cruelty free, whereas Benefit is not). It’s the perfect blend of color and highlight, and gives the right amount of glow to my cheeks. It makes me look fresh-faced and ready for the day every time I swipe it on.

I have the mini travel size and I can see it lasting for years, you don’t need much at all to get a good amount of color.

Not affiliate links.



Winter is the perfect time to cozy up with a podcast 🙂

Our most recent episodes include:

If you want to hear three lady nerds talk about their favorite books and movies, give us a listen on Podomatic, Apple Podcasts,Google Play, or Spotify.

Follow us @bluesoxcircle on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

loves & latest: June 11, 2018

monday musings



I recently devoured Sarah J. Maas’s Court of Thorns and Roses series (minus the recently released novella, which I will remedy forthwith). Faeries, complex characters, and unexpected sexiness, this is the kind of story I wanted when New Adult became a thing (and completely failed to meet my expectation).

I also mention the series in the video below.


The heat is on and I’ve been feeling nostalgic. I decided to switch my usual RMS blush for an oldie but a goodie: Benefit DandelionI wore Dandelion for years (through college and beyond), but stopped using it after greening my makeup. It’s not clean; it’s not cruelty free; it is all things bad and evil, but I love the color and I can live with my poor choices.



bluestocking-circleEpisode 10: Gotham by Gaslight (hosted by yours truly) is now available. This episode focuses on Gotham by Gaslight (the film and graphic novel) and general thoughts on BatCat.

You can find the episode on Podomatic, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play.


May Update

Health, writing, books, and tieks!