Book Reviews and Hello, 2021!

2021

Well, 2020 is finally winding down. What a crazy year it’s been! Around this time last year, most of us were setting goals and resolutions and looking forward to what 2020 might bring. I don’t think any of us would have ever imagined the year that lay ahead. I had high hopes for 2020, and now looking back, I realize that while it was a difficult year, it was also a beautiful year for me personally.

2020 is the year I found my faith and was received into the Roman Catholic Church. In 2020, I maintained a healthy workout routine all year, not just for the first month or two, and that’s even with the closing of gyms during quarantine. My hubby and I welcomed two new fur babies into our home this year. The Buffalo Bills won their division for the first time in 25 years! And, to top it all off, I needed an unexpected surgery this fall (hence my long break from the blog), and as shocking as it was to need the surgery, it ended up bringing incredible healing to my body. I’m now living pain-free! So while it’s easy to look back on 2020 with contempt and dismiss it as “the worst year ever,” I’m trying my hardest to find the joy amid the sorrow.

In book news, I’m thrilled to share that I met my 2020 Goodreads goal of reading fifty books! I can’t believe I read fifty books this year, and yes, a large part of meeting this goal is owed to quarantine time and my surgery recovery time in October and November. But even so, reading fifty books in a year feels like quite an accomplishment.

I discovered a new genre during my recovery that I’m loving and can’t seem to get enough of lately: Cozy Mysteries! It’s really more of a re-discovery as I did read some cozies a couple years back and enjoyed them. I started researching cozies during my recovery. Before I knew it, I had an entire stack from the library, and I was reading one to two books a week. So I’m sure I’ll have some cozy reviews coming soon. But for today, I’d like to focus on a couple of recent releases.

The ComebackThe Comback by Ella Berman

I had had my eye on The Comeback since it released in August, but knowing that I had an upcoming surgery, I decided to hold off and save it for my lengthy recovery. The Comeback may seem like a typical “me too” story about a young 23 year old actress coming to grips with and exposing her abuse while a child in Hollywood, but it goes far beyond that. The Comeback is a story about family, friendships, addiction, survival, and finding your voice. As selfish as the main character, Grace, seemed at times, I had to remember that her thoughts & actions were a reflection of how she was raised and she truly had no idea how to function as a normal, healthy adult. I felt bad for Grace. I sympathized with her and cheered for her to conquer her demons and emerge victorious. I loved the first person narration for her story. I’m not always a fan of first person narration. I think it’s overused, but it worked well here. I really enjoyed this story and recommend it for book clubs and those who like character driven stories.

Magic LessonsMagic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

As a fan of Practical Magic (the books and the movie), I was excited to read this latest installment in the series. My mom surprised me with this book during my recovery, which was very thoughtful and perfect timing – not only did I have a lot of reading time on my hands but it was October, and Magic Lessons was the perfect seasonal read. Overall, Magic Lessons was a good continuation of the Practical Magic series. It’s another prequel that goes back to the origins of the Owens family, detailing the story of their matriarch, Maria Owens. The story has a historical tone, taking place in the 1600s. Maria’s story was good. It was interesting, intriguing, and surprising at times. I really enjoy Alice Hoffman’s writing style. But…I will say that this book is about one thing: witches.

Witchcraft is emphasized throughout the book as well as the importance of keeping a grimoire, or personal spell book. Several excerpts from the characters’ spell books are included throughout the book. Yes, I realize this series has always been about a witchy family, but it was much more subtle in the first book, more obvious in the second book, and blatant in the third book. I was honestly a bit uncomfortable at times reading this. I enjoyed Maria’s story but the actual excerpts from the spell books read like a how-to guide, which felt a bit over the top and unnecessary to the story. So if you’re uncomfortable reading these kinds of things or want to keep witchcraft literature out of your house, then this book might not be for you. If you enjoy historical reads, witchy reads, or feminist reads, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

Looking toward 2021…

While I’d love to say that I plan to read another fifty books or even more in 2021, I know that I won’t. My Goodreads goal for 2021 will be about 12-24 books. This isn’t because I’ll be reading less but because my reading will be largely focused in one particular area: my faith. Father Mike Schmitz with Ascension Presents will be launching a new Bible in a Year podcast on January 1st. He will be walking listeners through reading the entire Bible in a year. I’m so excited to spend the next year steeped in the Word! In addition to my Bible reading, I’ll be working on some new writing projects and reading more faith-based books. To keep a healthy balance, I plan to read at least one “for fun” book a month – a mystery, a romance, contemporary fiction, or a thriller or two! 2021 is sure to be a fun mix of books and genres!

What are your reading or writing goals for 2021? Are there any upcoming releases you’re excited about?

I hope everyone has a wonderful, safe, and healthy new year as we say good-bye to 2020!

God bless,

Kait

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