Holly and Amanda’s Best Reads of 2018

Happy New Year!  It’s not too late to tell you our best reads of last year is it?  If it is, its Amanda’s fault.


Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter: I don’t know why I waited so long to read this.  Actually, I do.  The description as “set in a remote Italian coastal town in 1962” made me think it would be a snoozefest.  That’s because it reminded me of the time I tried to listen to “Under the Tuscan Sun” on audio on a long drive.  Anyway, this book was no snoozer – it was smart and funny and lovely.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel: You guys 99% of the world’s population dies in a pandemic, and the wold that’s left is haunting.   I don’t think I have enough chill to live there.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, J. Ryan Stradal: All I want to do is go to an exclusive dinner party that ends with Pat Prager’s Peanut Butter Bars.  Or maybe I should host one.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas: Read.this.book.  And  then examine your life.  I highly recommend the audio.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo: I threw away most of my socks because they were not bringing me joy.  Recently this became a problem because it got cold out, so I have been searching the internet for all the most joy-inducing socks.  I’m pretty sure those come from Smartwool (Amanda votes they come from Stance). 

Amanda  – Yes I cheated and made a few categories.  It was a good reading year!  I tried to read as few white dudes as possible and loved that.  I will definitely continue that goal for 2019.

Half a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  She’s brilliant.  Read everything this woman writes.  

Night and Silence, Seanan McGuire.  Have I mentioned I’m obsessed with Seanan’s books?  I love October Daye (and all her other series) but these books just get better and better.   This urban fantasy series makes me laugh and cry and I could reread them all at any time. I just joined her Patreon and I can’t wait to read all the short stories too!

A Dangerous Crossing, Ausma Zehana Khan – heart wrenching but a great mystery.  Maddening when you think about the tragedies in Syria and immigration in general.   I loved the growth of the characters over this series.  Honorable mention: The Dry, Jane Harper -I’m enjoying this series and eager for #3.

Whiskey and Ribbons, Leesa Cross-Smith.  This story of a woman who is widowed while pregnant is one I can’t stop thinking about.  This gave me a lot to consider about grief and motherhood, but was also just a great story.

The Dinner List, Rebecca Serle.  Another book about love and loss that stayed with me all year (link to my review.

YA: Sadie, Courtney Summers – A brutal mystery about the things that can happen to young women (link to my review).   Everywhere You Want to Be, Christina June – Read this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood so you can feel summer in January! Get some red sunglasses and let Tilly dance off with your heart. (I need to give a copy of this way soon)Far From the Tree, Robin Benway – This book about siblings and adoption was fantastic.  Made me cry and I loved just about every word.

Romance: A Princess in Theory, Alyssa Cole- Long lost princesses are my jam and I don’t even feel a bit of shame.  Alyssa Cole was one of my best finds of the year.  Read all her kissing books! The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory – This romance kicks off with a stopped elevator  and a fake date – apparently fake dates are also my jam (See The Kiss Quotient as well) The Proposal was also delightful and I can’t wait for her next book.

Nonfiction: So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo – Things have to get better.  Just read this. From the Corner of the Oval, Beck Dorey-Stein – – This was a such a happy read even if it made me miss Obama terribly.  I would never have thought being a White House stenographer brought along so much personal drama.

Now to kick off 2019 by finishing my 2018 library books including: Daughters of the Winter Queen, Of Blood and Bone, My Sister the Serial Killer and For  Muse of Fire before I get all the fines.  I can ignore my children to read right?  Then I am going to dive into my first ARC of the year, The Ruin of Kings– a long last prince and dragons sounds like just the thing for January.

All the news is garbage – but I love my library!

I am reading the news in short snippets these days because unless it’s about Serena Williams or maybe Prince Louis’ christening it all gives me panic attacks. I’ve been reading fiction voraciously to escape (and a few nonfic too) and The Chicago Public Library is giving me everything.  Here’s a list of what I’ve been loving – other than reading Goodnight Moon on repeat.



With Babycakes 

  • Ranger in Time series by Kate Messner – what is there not to love about a golden retriever traveling through time and space to help people in need?

What else is out there that I should be reading to avoid reality?

Our Favorite Books of 2017 That We Haven’t Reviewed

My new year’s resolution is to start reviewing the many books I read in 2017 that were intended for review, but for now, here is a list of the favorites that Holly and I read this year that we simply didn’t have the energy to post about.  Bring on 2018!


(It is super easy to make a list of books you haven’t reviewed when you haven’t reviewed anything in maybe two years! Holla!)


Happy New Year! What excellent books did we miss this year?

Best Books of 2016 So Far

Today’s Top Ten list really made me think – that is after the top book on my list.  No doubt Sweetbitter has blown everything else I’ve read this year away.  I’m still thinking about it!  Thanks to the Broke and the Bookish for this topic!


  1. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
  2. Tender by Brenda McKeon
  3. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  4. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
  5. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  6. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  7. The Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susan
  8. The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
  9. Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire
  10.  Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

What’s at the top of your list so far?  I think I should make Holly come post her top ten this year soon too!

Our Best Reads of 2015


I fell 10 books behind on my Goodreads challenge of 155 books – I think if I had finagled the Goodreads system for rereads better I would have made it though! Oh well – on to 2016!  I read some books I really loved this year so I’d say this Top Ten order is pretty random.  Its also missing books that I also thought were amazing – like Mortal Heart, Invasion of the Tearling, Crimson Bound, Euphoria and Made You Up.  Sigh.  Maybe I should have done a top twenty list…  These were my happiest or most thought provoking and just best reads of 2015.

  1. A  Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman  
  2. Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
  3. Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon (also the longest book I read!)
  4. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  5. All the Rage by Courtney Summers
  6. The Unquiet Dead by Ausuma Zehanat Khan
  7. The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  8. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  9. Uprooted by Naomi Novik  
  10. Dietland by Sarai Walker



I read about half as many books as I meant to in 2015, including 8 from Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, 7/12 books from my TBR Challenge list, and 4 read-alongs with my sister (Persuasion, Invasion of the Tearling, Mortal Heart, & Romantic Outlaws). Here, in no particular order, are my favorite books that I read this year:

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. RowlingHurts soooooo good.

The Martian by Andy Weir – On audiobook, but I’m counting it because I loved it so much.

The Lords of Discipline by Pat ConroyNot exactly light honeymoon reading, but definitely a gateway book into more Conroy.

MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel BertscheYoung professional in a new city looking for her bestie? HIts a bit – er – close to home.

Persuasion by Jane AustenThe read-along was at least half the fun of reading this one!

I love reading lists- tell me your best reads of 2015!  Happy New Year!

2015 TBR Challenge – I Cry Uncle

Last December, Amanda and I signed up for the 2015 TBR Challenge. Though I had lofty aspirations, between an extremely demanding work year, and the amount of time I spent laboring over Romantic Outlaws, I just didn’t get it done.

I did, however, make a late run, finishing another 4 books from my list since the end of October, for a total of 7/12. Coming soon…our 2016 TBR lists, for a super casual challenge with Amanda and I, plus Eva the Paperback Princess. Feel free to join in with your own list!

Recent Completions

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (2008)

One-sentence summary: This book is a lovely, happy story for 90% of the book, and then it crushes your soul.

This pause in time, within time…When did I first experience the exquisite sense of surrender that is possible only with another person? The peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release, and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship.

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson (2000)

One Three-sentence summary: Fascinating look at the formation of the weather service and the power of a 1900 hurricane. Not my favorite Erik Larson, though it would take a lot to replace my beloved Devil in the White City. I wanted more scandal and turmoil, which was a bit buried beneath all the bureaucracy – as it tends to be, I suppose.

The chief did not want his observers just sitting around between weather observations, a wise policy, given the sex scandals, grave robbing, and other incidents that would soon surface and further undermine the weather service’s reputation.

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott (1871)

One-sentence summary: Jo has grown up.

As there is no particular plan to this story, except to describe a few scenes in the life at Plumfield for the amusement of certain little persons, we will gently ramble along in this chapter and tell some of the pastimes of Mrs. Jo’s boys.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1970)

One-sentence summary: I am glad I read this, but if you can only read one coming of age story, please let it be Coming of Age in Mississippi.

If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat.

Have you read any of these 4?

Library Checkout: October

I love this idea of Shannon’s so much!  I’ll take any excuse to spread the library love!  My daughter read her first chapter book with me this month thanks to the library! Please pardon me for crying over this milestone.


Library Books Read (and rereading and rereading with Babycakes)

  • The Sandman Volume I by Neil Gaiman – (My review)
  • The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt
  • Nancy Clancy: Soccer Mania by Jane O’Connor
  • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
  • I am a Witch’s Cat by Harriet Muncaster
  • I am Malala
  • China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

Checked Out to Read

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • Nil by Lynne Matson
  • Sekret (still renewing this one sigh) by Lindsay Smith
  • Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Treehouse #1)  by Mary Pope Osborne

Returned Read

  • Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

On Hold

  • Breaking Bad Season 1 (so excited)
  • Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich
  • The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie R. King
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (119# on 39 copies bah)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Illustrated Edition
  • Laurie Berkner Band Favorite Kids Classic Songs
  • Soundless by Richelle Mead
  • The Veil by Chloe Neill
  • The Witches by Stacy Schiff
  • Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich

Returned unread:

  • Cinderella Ate My Daughter
  • Interstella Cinderella by Deborah Underwood (Babycakes)
  • Slaughterhouse 90210: Where Great Books Meet Pop Culture  by Maris Kreizman – didn’t even make it to the checkout – but this looks awesome! I had too many books at that trip if there is such a thing.

Museums!  Because the Chicago Public Library is the coolest I lucked out this month and checked out

  • Shedd Aquarium Pass
  • Adler Planetarium Pass – sadly returned unused.  Stupid weekend cold.

How did you do at the library this month?  Any recommendations of what to read first?

Library Checkout

I am utterly addicted to the Chicago Public Library so I love this check-in posted by Shannon at River City Reading talking about how you use your library.  It is not an exaggeration to say I am on the site or the app or swinging by a branch of the library nearly daily.  Due to a rather sad situation involving a cd my husband borrowed I am the current library card holder for my whole family.  Looking at this all in one list I’m a little embarrassed – I feel like such a book hoarder! 


Checked out To Be Read:

The Sandman Volume One by Neil Gaiman.  2015 TBR Challenge here I come!  

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein  

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – the Husband

The Graveyard Book also by Neil Gaiman – The Husband

Checked Out and Currently Being Read:

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

Aqualicious by Victoria Kann – for Babycakes

Pete the Cat, Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin

10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle

Being repeatedly renewed:

Sekret by Lindsay Smith -Seriously I can’t admit how many times I’ve renewed this.

Read and Returned:

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Euphoria by Lily King

Returned Unread:

The Drifters by Kim Harrison

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski


Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie R. King

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Martian by Andy Weir (this might go off the list because I am 383 for 78 copies)

Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

Nil by Lynne Matson

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Dewalt (Babycakes but totally for me too)

Interstella Cinderella by Deborah Underwood (Babycakes)

Fancy Nancy: Soccer Mania by Jane O’Connor (Babycakes)

Don’t judge me for being a library hoarder! The CPL is that great that I have to get all the books!

Our Top Ten Books About Sisters

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday.  These was a choice of 10 books featuring characters who _______- and my genius sister came up with our topic!


Little Women – They may end up with some weird relationship dynamics, but the March sisters are pretty committed to one another.

Persuasion – Pretty clear who the good sister is in this one!

Wicked – Turning the whole good/evil sister upside down.

The Poisonwood Bible – Oh, my heart.

Game of Thrones – Amanda didn’t read far enough to get past the impression one gets of Sansa in the first book, but there’s more to learn about Arya and Sansa.  [Amanda– Don’t try to tempt me to read this sister!]


The Deception of the Emerald Ring/Seduction of the Crimson Rose – Yes, yes  they’re each about a different sister- but it’s an important relationship!

Bloodlines – Two very different sets of sisters in this series!  Don’t judge me for my YA vampire love!

Incryptid – Ok so each book of this series is about a different member of the family. But I love these sisters (and a brother) who will fight to the death for each other.

Garden Spells/First Frost – Sarah Addison Allen wins! Magical realism and great sisters.

Sweet Valley High:  Really, what list of sisterly books could be complete without the Wakefields?  Personally I’m still heartbroken over the total let down that was Sweet Valley Confidential.  So many lessons learned in Sweet Valley! #RIPRegina #NotEvenOnce


Not a book, but Orphan Black! I’m obsessed and everyone should watch.  I need someone to talk about this with since Holly won’t bow to my commands.

What is your TTT about?  Any fantastic sisterly books we’re missing?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books to Read with My Sister

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday from the Broke and the Bookish was Ten Books I’d Love to Read With My Book Club, but since we are an exclusive book club of two here at Gun In Act One, we’re changing it up for a list of ten books we’d like to read together. If you want to see what books we’ve read and blogged about together already, may we direct you to this post here for a list.



  1. Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers.  Must finish the Assassin Nun story.
  2. Parasite by Mira Grant.  Yes I am a tad obsessed with Seanan/Mira’s books.  I don’t care and I’m taking Holly along with me.
  3. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.  Retelling of the Arabian Nights-yes sign me up and I’ll bring Holly whether she’s ready or not. Maybe I am a bit of a book pusher
  4. Persuasion by Jane Austen.  I think our high school English teacher, Brother Ruhl, would be proud! We both have this on our 2015 TBR Challenge list so it must be read!
  5. Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon.  I think its time to try some nonfiction together.  This will be a good spring read!


  1. Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein – Code Name Verity was my jam.
  2. The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Page – follow-up to the very funny Dorothy Must Die, so we’ve got to find out what happens next.
  3. The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johnson – okay, I still have to read #1, but I know Amanda is chomping at the bit for this one! (Chomping at the bit is being really polite-thanks sister)
  4. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson – hmm, this is the only author of my list who will be new to both of us. Maybe we need to think outside the box more. Maybe.
  5. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta – author of our beloved Lumatere Chronicles. We obviously need to check out her other work!