This week, I’m enjoying a fun week with our family at the beach – but as all parents of small kids know, it’s not so much a vacation as it is a trip. Ha! In other words, I’m not kicking back with a beach read in the sand, but I’m splashing in the pool and digging for sand crabs and enjoying making memories with kids. There might not be a lot of reading happening for me right now, but thankfully I was able to do quite a bit of reading last month!
May ended up being a unique month in that all the books I’ve read were from authors whom I’ve read before. It was fun to compare these books to their previous works and I’m excited to chat about them all today!
Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez
Alexis is a 37-year-old doctor from a wealthy, high-profile family of physicians at a prestigious hospital system. Daniel is a humble 28-year-old carpenter and B&B manager from a small, tight-knit rural town two hours away. The two seemingly have nothing in common, but when car trouble lands Alexis in Daniel’s tiny town, the two meet and just click. And while they seem to work really well together, both have family legacies in their respective communities and both feel deeply duty-bound to continue the legacies on. Could there actually be potential for a real, lasting, relationship here?
I’m a big Abby Jimenez fan so I went in to this book with pretty high expectations and it did not disappoint – it was just what I expected in another installment of the little world she’s created. There was referenced character overlap and other callbacks to previous books (she also wrote The Friend Zone, The Happy Ever After Playlist, and Life’s Too Short, all of which have some character crossover) which was really fun to pick up on. Daniel and Alexis are both likeable and I thought the character development, specifically on Alexis’ end, was believable and real. As it is with all of Jimenez’s books, there is fun, flirty romance woven into harder, deeper topics – this book specifically dealt with verbal, emotional, and even some physical abuse and toxic relationships (both familial and romantic). I would rate it as PG-13 for steaminess – again, it’s very similar style to the author’s other books. I loved the characters, I loved the cute little community, I loved Alexis’ best friend (and it sounds like her book is coming next year!) – this was a fun read and I really enjoyed it!
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
After a failed bank robbery, the would-be thief flees from the bank to a neighboring building and inadvertently interrupts an apartment open house. All the sudden, the bank robbery becomes a hostage situation that includes a young married couple about to welcome their first child, an elderly woman waiting for her husband to come join the viewing, a retired couple looking to turn a profit on the fixer-upper, and a bank director who has her own reasons for choosing this specific apartment to view. As the police try to navigate how to deal with diffusing the hostage situation, the people in the apartment start to learn more about one another and prove to be the worst group of hostages, being held up by the worst bank robber, and none of them could have predicted how entering this particular apartment on this particular day would alter their lives forever.
While I did enjoy My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry and Beartown, this might be my favorite Backman book yet! The character development is incredible, the writing is masterful and clever, and I found the whole story to just be an enjoyable treat from start to finish. It was sweet, it was funny, it was deep, and it was entertaining. I think Backman managed to attain a great balance of humor and wit with more complex themes of the things that go into being human: doubt, loneliness, regret, anxiety, and love. I didn’t want it to end! It’s definitely a slower burn read, but I think it just really works as one to savor.
A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins
A young man is found brutally murdered on a houseboat, and suspicions and questions arise about three women who knew him. There’s the young and troubled laundromat employee who recently went on a date with him that didn’t end well, the nosy neighbor who knows more than she’s saying and has reasons for keeping secrets, and the aunt who has already has had more than her fair share of grief over loss in their family. As the police try to determine who murdered him, they find each woman had means and opportunity for murder – but which of them was pushed to the point of also having motive?
Years ago, I read Girl on the Train and loved it, and I expected another fast-paced thriller from Hawkins. I found this book to be appropriately named though, as it was a slower burn of a thriller. It’s one of those where you can’t really decide who you think the killer is – no one is particularly likeable, but all have their good and bad qualities and it’s hard to nail down what you think actually happened to the dead man in the hours before he was killed. In my mind, it’s no match for Girl on the Train, but it was intriguing and kept my interest and I read it pretty quickly trying to figure out who did it. As motivations were unearthed, I found myself more and more interested in how the plot would turn out. Overall, while it was not a heart-pumping thriller, it was a solid murder mystery and I enjoyed it.
The No Show by Beth O-Leary
Siobhan, Miranda, and Jane are three women with very little in common except one thing: they were all stood up on Valentine’s Day. Even more, they were all stood up by the exact same man. But Joseph Carter is apologetic and charming and none of them can hold on to their anger for too long – as they all work to forgive him and move forward in their relationship, each woman is in danger of falling in love with him. But of course, they do not know that the other two women exist, nor do they know where he actually was on Valentine’s Day. With so many secrets, is it possible that any of these women can find happiness or are they all destined for a broken heart?
I loved The Flatshare by this author so I was excited to see she wrote another book. I went in pretty blind and now after reading it, going in blind is the way to go so I’m not going to detail much more here. I will say, there were a few different times I got frustrated and wanted to quit – I had no idea how this could possibly have a satisfying ending – but I kept going and ultimately was so glad I finished it. After it’s all said and done, I would say The Flatshare still tops my list but I did actually enjoy this book and do recommend it. It was definitely worth the frustration I felt at times!
The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang
Anna is a talented violinist with a few big problems. For one, she’s finding herself burnt out and unable to get through a single piece of music without having the compulsive need to stop and start over. For another, her long-term boyfriend says he believes he wants to marry her . . . but just to be sure, wants to have an open relationship first to make sure there’s no one else out there. Anna is blindsided – and angry. She decides that she’ll do the same as her jerk of a boyfriend and have a string of meaningless one-night stands, and the first guy she tries seems perfect: Quan is a motorcycle-riding, tattoo-covered man with his own reasons for wanting a meaningless connection. But when their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, and then their second and third as well, their connection becomes anything but meaningless. In fact, it might have more meaning than either one of them ever bargained for.
This book felt similar to the other book of Hoang’s that I’ve read, The Kiss Quotient, in that the main female character is on the autism spectrum. The author’s note at the end says Hoang herself is, and it’s evident that she writes a lot of herself into her characters. There is also some character overlap, as the people from The Kiss Quotient make appearances in this story as well. All that being said, the struggles that Anna and Quan face are unique and in many ways, relatable. I enjoyed seeing their dynamic develop and follow Anna’s journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance. The book is also similarly very steamy and definitely gets a rated-R warning from me. In addition to the theme of acceptance of an autism diagnosis, there were deeper plot points of heavy family expectations, end of life care and the toll it takes on a family, and dealing with the after-effects of a cancer battle. I wanted to root for Anna and Quan as they each had personal struggles to overcome, and overall enjoyed this read.
What have you been reading and loving lately?