Changes Coming to Isle of Books

I started Isle of Books back in December of 2011. I needed a hobby after a break-up and people were always asking me for book reviews so it seemed a natural fit to start a blog of book reviews. I found myself recommending the same books over and over without being really certain if those were the best books I could be recommending or the right ones for that person. Asking someone to recommend you a book on the spot is a lot like (I imagine) asking an octagenarian to name their favorite memory. That question is too big to properly answer without ample time for reflection.

I wanted Isle of Books to be a place where people could come and look for a book to read for an upcoming vacation or during a lengthy recovery from illness or surgery. I intended just to review my absolute favorite books and series. Which worked fine during college when I had so much more time to read and write about books I’d read in the past. But after I graduated and found a big-girl job, I started reading a lot less. And my posts became less and less frequent.

In order to serve my community on Isle of Books, I started reviewing every book I read, not just my favorites. Over time, I added some additional blogs to satisfy the need I felt to create more and more content. Sections like Featured Poems, Writing Project Wednesday, Reading Spaces, conference/author talk reviews, writing advice, and other miscellaneous topics. It was a lot of work, but it worked well for me a time. I thought I was building my platform and cultivating a tribe for the far-off future when I was an author with a book to sell of my own.

Recently, I attend the Superstars Writing Conference in Colorado Springs. Author Jonathan Maberry was one of the speakers. During one of the Q&A sessions, someone asked him about having a blog of book reviews. Of course, my ears perked up. I had a book of book reviews. Wasn’t that good for promoting for my brand as an author and writer? I was engaging with people and goshdarnit I had a platform!

In short, no.

It’s not my job to review books. I don’t get paid for it. I do it as a hobby. And making a hobby of criticizing others writers isn’t nice and isn’t very tribe-like. Those of you who know me in real life know I’m a nice person (or at least I think I am!) so it hurt my heart when someone brought it to my attention that what I was doing was not nice at all.

Now, this isn’t the end of Isle of Books so please don’t hear it that way! This moment just marks a shift, a pivot to nobler pursuits. There will still be book reviews! But I’m going back to my roots and only reviewing books I absolutely love. Those books I would enthusiastically champion to those who had ears to hear. If books were free, everyone would be getting it as a Christmas present. Those types of books. And there will still be Featured Poems and Reading Spaces and Writing Project Wednesdays (when I feel like writing them) and reviews of conferences and author talks and news about my publications. I hope more of my own fiction will find its way here. I also hope to do some author/literary people interviews if I can find anyone who’s willing. And in the near future (maybe this year!) I will have logged 1,000 books read on Goodreads. I’ve already planned a celebratory post that will include my personal list of the best books I read out of that 1,000 – you know you want to stick around for that! And I hope there will be more personal posts, too. In recent years I’ve been letting more of my life and personality creep into this blog and I want to do more of that. Despite being a blogger for over six years, I never talked all that much about myself.

I don’t regret the years I spent writing book reviews. I received opportunities I never would have had without it. I connected with so many readers near and far. I became a better reader because I knew I would be writing a review later. And I hope I became a better writer, at least in the non-fiction space, from all the practice. To date, there have been 730 posts on Isle of Books!

Soon, you won’t find all 730 posts on this site anymore. I’m working on going through and unpublishing any post I feel doesn’t fit my new standards for Isle of Books. You may find references to books on my social media that now have dead links. If you’re a new reader who never saw the original post, you’re free to think what you want about why that post is no longer up. But I think we’re all allowed to grow as human beings and backtrack on our earlier decisions. And I hope you’ll understand that having to manually go through 730 posts to unpublish the ones I don’t want up anymore is enough of a time investment. If you’re an author of one of those books that no longer has a published review, you can rest easy knowing the words are now locked away in my archives and will not see the light of day again.

If you’re only here for the book reviews and want to now take your eyeballs elsewhere, I appreciate you visiting my corner of the internet and hope you enjoyed your stay. To all the readers of Isle of Books, whether you’re brand-new or have been with me since the beginning, thank you. Thank you for the time you’ve been spent reading my words and considering my ideas and laughing (hopefully) at my lame jokes. Thank you for being here and letting me pursue this hobby for the past six years.

But if you’ve actually read to the end of this post, I hope you’ll stick around with me a little bit longer. I’m excited for the future and hope you’ll be along for the ride!



2017 in Review


I think I echo the sentiments of many when I say this year just hurtled by. Seriously, I think 2017 was in a race to see how quickly it could get to 2018. Which is maybe just as well. 2017 was the kind of year that (continuing the trainwreck of 2016) made you really wonder about the fate of humanity and whether any of us are going to be around much longer.

On that jolly note, here’s what I read this year 😉

Oh, and 2018, I have big plans for you. Be ready.


–67 books


–  42  Fiction /    25 Non-Fiction


–    24  Male /   28 Female


The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck (1942)


Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6) by Sarah J. Maas (September 2017)


Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J Maas – 693 pages


Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson – 63 pages


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – originally published in Swedish


If 2016 was the year of the good book, 2017 was a year of books that were pretty evenly divided between really good or didn’t like it. I’m having trouble picking my best book of 2017, but I think Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, and A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman can share this title.


The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah….I wanted SO much more from this book. It really did not live up to my expectations in most ways.

Also Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I really expected to love this one and I didn’t even like it enough to want to continue the series. So sad.


Toss-up between Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, and Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart.


Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton. I had zero expectations for this book to be any good…but I loved it!

Also Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas. Up to this point in the series, the books were addicting, but I also cringed multiple times when reading them. This was the moment the series turned a corner for me and now I’m kind of obsessed.


I read a lot of thrillers this year, so I have many entries:

The Obsidian Chamber by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

-All the Sarah J. Maas books I read: Crown of Midnight, The Assassin’s Blade, Heir of Fire, Queen of Shadows, Empire of Storms, Tower of Dawn


Both of the writing craft books I read this year really helped me out: Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson and Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland


Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas. Broke my heart in so many ways.

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard. Same deal.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. Samesies.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I may have been really disappointed by this book, but I still cried at the end.


-King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas


-Count Alexander Rostov in A Gentleman in Moscow

-Basically every character in A Man Called Ove




Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland


Red RisingNews of the World, A Man Called Ove, Exit West, Something Missing


Amor Towles, Elsa Hart, Fredrik Backman, Catherine Knutsson


6 novels by Sarah J. Maas



“Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed.” – News of the World by Paulette Jiles

“To love is to enter into the inevitability of one day not being able to protect what is most valuable to you.” – Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

“We are all migrants through time.” –Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

“He had said that our lives are steered by uncertainties, many of which are disruptive or even daunting; but that if we persevere and remain generous of heart, we may be granted a moment of lucidity—a moment in which all that has happened to us suddenly comes into focus as a necessary course of events, even as we find ourselves on the threshold of the life we had been meant to lead all along.” – A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles


Yes! I read 67 books. I believe my original goal was 50 books and I kept bumping it up.


A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman…both had been recommended to me many times by people whose opinions I trusted. I loved them both (as expected)!

The Books I’m Most Excited to Buy in 2018

Okay so the book situation at my house is a little out of control. I say a little, because really, I do have it under control. It’s not a hoarders situation, there’s just twenty, maybe thirty, okay, fifty, books that don’t fit on any of my bookshelves. But it’s fine. I’ve totally got this.

So while I’m once again technically on a book-buying moratorium (moment of silence here, please), there are a few books I’m irrationally excited to purchase in 2018. Therefore, I will be buying them despite the ban on adding to my collection. Because I just can’t not read them!

War Storm by Victoria Aveyard


Mare Barrow learned this all too well when Cal’s betrayal nearly destroyed her. Now determined to protect her heart—and secure freedom for Reds and newbloods like her—Mare resolves to overthrow the kingdom of Norta once and for all . . . starting with the crown on Maven’s head.

But no battle is won alone, and before the Reds may rise as one, Mare must side with the boy who broke her heart in order to defeat the boy who almost broke her. Cal’s powerful Silver allies, alongside Mare and the Scarlet Guard, prove a formidable force. But Maven is driven by an obsession so deep, he will stop at nothing to have Mare as his own again, even if it means demolish everything—and everyone—in his path.

War is coming, and all Mare has fought for hangs in the balance. Will victory be enough to topple the Silver kingdoms? Or will the little lightning girl be forever silenced?

In the epic conclusion to Victoria Aveyard’s stunning series, Mare must embrace her fate and summon all her power . . . for all will be tested, but not all will survive.

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

They call him father, liberator, warlord, Slave King, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the war-torn planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-third of his life.
A decade ago Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk all he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?
And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever: 
A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp, and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.
An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.
And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the Sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe. Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

What begins as a manhunt for the missing daughter of a wealthy tech billionaire becomes something altogether different when the young woman’s body is discovered in an abandoned warehouse in Kew Gardens, Queens, the head nowhere to be found. It appears there may be two killers on the loose–one responsible for the young woman’s death, another responsible for the mutilation. A pair of such dastardly killers requires a team of equally talented investigators. Luckily, both Vincent D’Agosta and Special Agent Pendergast are back in town.

D’Agosta hopes that working a case back on his home turf for the first time in years will reinvigorate the FBI Special Agent and give him an opportunity to flex his investigative might. But neither is prepared to face a killer–or killers–as diabolical as this. It will take all of Pendergast and D’Agosta’s intelligence and strength simply to match wits–let alone stay alive.


The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin

Just putting it out there that GRRM is going to pull a Beyonce and just drop the next Game of Thrones book at our feet in 2018 with no warning.

Throne of Glass #7 by Sarah J. Maas

The conclusion to the Throne of Glass series, the title, cover, and description haven’t been revealed yet. This book is slated for release in Fall 2018.

Which book are you most excited to buy (and read!) in 2018? Tell me in the comments below!

Reading Spaces: Holiday Homes

The holidays are here! My house has been decorated since the day after Thanksgiving and I am loving the extra sparkles, pillows, and twinkle lights that have temporary taken over my living room. It makes my reading space feel extra cozy! In this week’s Reading Spaces, I’m sharing some of my favorite festive ideas!

All images via Houzz

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9 Books on My 2017 Holiday Wishlist

For those of you who don’t know, my birthday falls less than month after Christmas, on January 17th. Every year I make a combo Christmas/Birthday list in case anyone wants to get me anything. If you actually asked me what I wanted, I would probably stare at you like a deer in the headlights. It’s the same sort of syndrome that motivated me to start this blog. People would ask me to recommend books and I could never remember what I’d read and I kept recommending the same 2-3 books, while never feeling very confident that I actually liked them.


I thought it might be fun to put up the short list of books that made it to my 2017-2018 Christmas/Birthday List. Some of these are just books I’m dying to read and some of these are either the conclusion to series I’m reading or helping me move along to the conclusion!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood

In this final volume of the internationally celebrated MaddAddam trilogy, the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of the population. Toby is part of a small band of survivors, along with the Children of Crake: the gentle, bioengineered quasi-human species who will inherit this new earth.

As Toby explains their origins to the curious Crakers, her tales cohere into a luminous oral history that sets down humanity’s past—and points toward its future. Blending action, humor, romance, and an imagination at once dazzlingly inventive and grounded in a recognizable world, MaddAddam is vintage Atwood—a moving and dramatic conclusion to her epic work of speculative fiction.

Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis

Under Wildwood is the second book in the New York Times bestselling adventure series the Wildwood Chronicles from Colin Meloy, lead singer of the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, the acclaimed illustrator of The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Ever since Prue McKeel returned home from the Impassable Wilderness after rescuing her brother from the malevolent Dowager Governess, life has been pretty dull. School holds no interest for her, and her new science teacher keeps getting on her case about her dismal test scores and daydreaming in class. Her mind is constantly returning to the verdant groves and sky-tall trees of Wildwood, where her friend Curtis still remains as a bandit-in-training.

But all is not well in that world. Dark assassins with mysterious motives conspire to settle the scores of an unknown client. A titan of industry employs inmates from his orphanage to work his machine shop, all the while obsessing over the exploitation of the Impassable Wilderness. And, in what will be their greatest challenge yet, Prue and Curtis are thrown together again to save themselves and the lives of their friends, and to bring unity to a divided country. But in order to do that, they must go under Wildwood.

The White Mirror by Elsa Hart

In The White Mirror, the follow-up to Elsa Hart’s critically acclaimed debut, Jade Dragon Mountain, Li Du, an imperial librarian and former exile in 18th century China, is now an independent traveler. He is journeying with a trade caravan bound for Lhasa when a detour brings them to a valley hidden between mountain passes. On the icy planks of a wooden bridge, a monk sits in contemplation. Closer inspection reveals that the monk is dead, apparently of a self-inflicted wound. His robes are rent, revealing a strange symbol painted on his chest.

When the rain turns to snow, the caravan is forced to seek hospitality from the local lord while they wait for the storm to pass. The dead monk, Li Du soon learns, was a reclusive painter. According to the family, his bizarre suicide is not surprising, given his obsession with the demon world. But Li Du is convinced that all is not as it seems. Why did the caravan leader detour to this particular valley? Why does the lord’s heir sleep in the barn like a servant? And who is the mysterious woman traveling through the mountain wilds?

Trapped in the snow, surrounded by secrets and an unexplained grief that haunts the manor, Li Du cannot distract himself from memories he’s tried to leave behind. As he discovers irrefutable evidence of the painter’s murder and pieces together the dark circumstances of his death, Li Du must face the reason he will not go home and, ultimately, the reason why he must.

Prodigy by Marie Lu

June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

A new threat haunts the streets of London…
Rory Deveaux has changed in ways she never could have imagined since moving to London and beginning a new life at boarding school. As if her newfound ability to see ghosts hadn’t complicated her life enough, Rory’s recent brush with the Jack the Ripper copycat has left her with an even more unusual and intense power. Now, a new string of inexplicable deaths is threatening London, and Rory has evidence that they are no coincidence. Something sinister is going on, and it is up to her to convince the city’s secret ghost-policing squad to listen before it’s too late.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antarimagicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in ArnesRed Londonand officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.


What books are you hoping Santa leaves under the tree for you? Leave me a comment below!