September 2022 Book Reviews

I always enjoy Book Review day, but this month I’m particularly excited about it. Not only did I enjoy all four books I read, but two of them have potential to top my list for favorite reads of 2022. Needless to say, it was a great month of reading and I’m very excited to discuss, so let’s get to it!

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

Yona has only the faintest memories of life outside the forest: memories of her parents and a warm nursery. Memories of a family, before she was stolen from her home by a woman named Jerusza. Jerusza whisked her away to the deepest parts of the forest where, year after year, she taught Yona everything she knew about surviving alone in the forest. Neither Jerusza nor Yona could ever imagine how these survival skills would be used one day, long after Jerusza has died, when Yona encounters Jews fleeing into the forest away from the Nazis. Yona is faced with a choice: continue to live alone or take the risk of helping those seeking refuge in the forest.

I have read a lot of WWII historical fiction over the years, but this story felt very unique to me. The vast majority of the plot took place in the forest, which is not the typical setting I’m used to. While there are references to the ghettos and concentration camps, the reader doesn’t spend any time in them and instead, we as readers are kind of hidden away in the forest with Yona, receiving scraps of information from those she encounters. Yona is such a strong character and I really enjoyed seeing her come into her own. It could have easily become monotonous with years of surviving in the forest, but there was enough variety to keep my interest the whole time. It’s hard for me to describe books based on WWII or the Holocaust as being enjoyable because the subject matter is so hard and heavy, but I will say I found this book to be incredibly compelling. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful – I do recommend this for the historical fiction fan!

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne

Just look at that subtitle! Sign me up please. I’ve had this book on my shelves for a couple years now and I finally made time to read it – I’m SO glad I did. I have always felt a pull towards simplicity (hence, this blog which I named nine years ago!) and this book aligns so well with my personal philosophy, but with the years of research to back it up. The author covers four aspects of life where he encourages simplicity: environment (stuff), rhythms, schedules, and filtering out the adult world. He talks about the benefits of simplifying in these areas and gives a lot of suggestions to achieve this. He covers things I’ve always been passionate about and brings up things I’ve never thought of before. I’ll admit, I’m not going to go to the extreme of fulfilling every suggestion, but I did gain a lot of insight into things I can do that feel good for our family.  

The book gives so many reasons why simplifying is great for children (which spills over into being great for adults!) and I think it is an incredibly beneficial read for parents at any stage. It’s inspiring me to work to create a simpler, more restful life for our family to enjoy and savor. The end of each chapter gives a little “imagine life” look that encourages the reader to imagine their life without the chaos, clutter, distractions, etc. that bog us down and each one made me more and more excited about actually living this life I’m imagining. I know this book will have far-reaching impact in my family’s life and I’ll be referring to it for a long, long time. Highly recommend!

The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin

Alice is a middle-aged widow struggling to cope with her intense grief over the loss of her husband. Jake is a teenaged boy learning to navigate life in the wake of an accident that left him as a paraplegic. Harry is a twenty-something man living with crippling social anxiety and unsure of how to find work to support himself. These three strangers with seemingly nothing in common are all drawn together around one unlikely source: Alice’s honeybee farm. When a new pesticide company threatens the health of their local ecosystem and honeybee population, the three new friends unite to work together to save the bees – and in the process, find hope for their individual futures as well.

This book was my book club’s pick this month and we found it to be a nice, uplifting read. I thought the character development was fantastic; to see each character wrestle with their individual trials and learn to forge new paths for themselves was really satisfying. Each character was someone you want to root for, though I particularly enjoyed Jake’s storyline and cheering for him. The chapters switch perspectives from the three characters and sometimes will overlap timelines but I didn’t find that too difficult to follow. Overall, I found this story to be heartwarming and satisfying and would recommend it.

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

On an unsuspecting morning in March, the entire world wakes up with one thing in common: regardless of where they live, every adult 22 years and older has a small wooden box waiting for them. Those who open the box all find a string inside, though the length of the string differs. It isn’t long before the realization is made that the length of the strings correlates to exactly how long the owner’s life is going to be. Everyone on earth is now faced with the decision on whether or not to open the box and find out their fate. As people wrestle with the choice of knowing or not, one politician makes a decision regarding his string that has immediate, and far-reaching, impact.

WOW. I absolutely devoured this book in under 24 hours. I just could not put it down! Chapters alternate from the perspectives of eight different characters – some with short strings, some with long strings, and some who have chosen not to open their box. I loved how intricately woven the storylines were; it was so easy for me to become deeply invested in each one. I laughed, I gasped, I cried, I felt all the feels. The premise was fascinating and I kept thinking about what I would do in this situation. Would I look at my string or would I choose to keep my box closed? I honestly still don’t know. I think this is an excellent choice for a book club – I had so many thoughts I wanted to talk through with someone both as I read and after I finished. I know it will stay with me for a long, long time. It’s intriguing, it’s poignant, it’s surprising, it’s hopeful. I highly recommend this one!

What have you been reading lately?

July 2022 Book Reviews

It’s finally August, which means one thing around here: IT’S BABY MONTH! I’m so excited to meet our newest little love! The nursery is 98% ready, the hospital bags are packed, and we are all just counting down the days to meeting this sweet little boy.

We crammed so much into June and July because we knew August would be a slowdown month full of rest and baby snuggles, but I was able to carve out some time for reading. In July I read four books, and while only one of them is a certified winner in my book, it felt good to get back into reading! Let’s discuss, shall we?

Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Alexis is a sexual abuse survivor and café owner who has received shocking news that turns her world upside down. She turns to her best friend, genius computer geek Noah, for comfort and help. He’s the only man she truly trusts, and he’ll do anything to keep that trust, including keep his own feelings of being in love with Alexis to himself to prevent ruining their friendship. With some help from their friends (and Noah’s reluctant participation in a book club), can they each start to find the courage to be truly honest about their feelings for one another and have a chance at happiness beyond just friendship?

This was a random library find that I saw and decided to try. It’s part of a larger series of Bromance Book Club books and while I like the concept, I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of these books. The idea behind the Bromance Book Club is a group of male friends reading romance books to better understand love and women, and also to try and dismantle some of the toxic masculinity they’ve been surrounded with their entire lives. A good premise, but honestly the book club was a pretty small section of the story. I enjoyed Noah and Alexis’s dynamic and watching them finally get to the point of being honest about their feelings beyond friendship. Unfortunately, the book had too much going on with side plots (there was major stuff going on with both their families and histories, within the friend group, Alexis’ history as an abuse survivor and café owner, and the author was obviously spending time setting up another character for a future book). The group of friends is entertaining, but pretty large and it’s hard to keep track of everyone. It maybe it wouldn’t have been so overwhelming if I had read the series in order? It’s definitely rated-R for language and steamy scenes, so if that’s not your thing, you likely want to avoid this one. While I probably won’t read more of the series, I found it to be a decent, but very skimmable, friends-to-lovers romance.

The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

After her grandmother, Mags, dies and gives her possession of her home, The Hideaway, Sara is tasked with restoring the home to its former glory but it’s not such a simple request. First of all, the house is full of things and in desperate need of repair and upgrades. Second of all, it is being inhabited by a crew of her grandmother’s friends, some of whom have lived in the home for decades. Third of all, it’s located hours away from Sara’s home and business in New Orleans. Should she cut her losses and sell the property to the overeager developer targeting the land for his next big project? Or can it be restored and given new life? And what answers might this house still hold about the mysterious life of Mags?

I happened to see this book in a thrift store a while ago and it had been sitting on my shelves since then – I finally noticed it again this month and decided to give it a try. I loved envisioning The Hideaway and its restoration – it seems like such a charming home and following along with the renovations was a treat for me and probably my favorite part of the whole book. Other than that, this was the kind of middle-of-the-road book that leaves me without a whole lot to say. The story is told from both Sara’s present-day perspective and Mag’s past perspective but I have to say, I didn’t love most of Mag’s storyline. I don’t want to give a lot away, but it made me frustrated and sad and even a little skeptical. I did enjoy the cast of characters, and the very Southern setting is part of the book’s charm. It’s a little cheesy at times, but I think overall it hits a sweet, mostly-PG note and touches on legacy, loyalty, family, and love. Not my favorite, but still a pretty enjoyable, B or B- level read.

In A New York Minute by Kate Spencer

After being unexpectedly laid off from her job, Franny boards a crowded subway train and gets her favorite dress caught in the doors, causing it to rip all the way open in the back. To make matters worse, a subway lurch causes her to literally fall into the handsome man in a suit next to her. He offers her his jacket to cover herself up and after an awkward conversation, gets off the train. Franny just wants to get home and forget this awful day, but that’s going to be hard since another subway passenger not only documented the whole encounter on her phone and posted on social media, but the story is going viral and she and this mystery man, Hayes, are now being shipped as a couple.

This book was about what I expected – a little rom com about two opposites who are seemingly mismatched and don’t even like each other initially. I liked Franny and Hayes well enough, I liked the supporting friend characters, and I liked that Hayes in particular was not your average leading man but was actually kind of socially awkward. That being said, I feel like this story could’ve had more depth. There were underdeveloped side plots, particularly with each of their families, that I wish would’ve been given more time. The conflicts were a little forced and clunky, and honestly, I think I enjoyed the banter between the friends more than between Franny and Hayes. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly about the execution didn’t work for me, but I think the story as a whole was a bit underwhelming and I got a little bored – while I think there are those who would really enjoy this as an easy breezy read, it ends up falling in the C+ range for me.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

In early 1900’s Korea, Sunja is a young and naive teenager, the only child of a widowed boardinghouse manager. When she discovers that she is pregnant, and worse, that the father of her child is married, she rejects her lover’s offer to become a mistress and instead accepts the offer of a sickly minister who had been nursed back to health by Sunja and her mother: he will marry her and give the child his name to save her from disgrace. Sunja accepts and travels with her new husband to Japan, setting off a chain of events that will change the course of their family’s history forever.

Wow, I surprised by how much I enjoyed this one! Prior to reading this book, I knew nothing about the Japanese occupation of Korea and how that affected Koreans for generations. This book was eye-opening to say the least! From the very first chapter, the writing style hooked me right in, although I will say things got a big slow for me for a while before picking back up. The plotline is character-driven and by no means fast-paced, plus it clocks in at 480+ pages, so it’s definitely not a quick read, nor is it for the faint of heart. While I typically enjoy reading in long stretches or spending all my spare time reading (once I’ve started a book), I found this novel to be a good one to read a bit, then set it down to pick back up later. Being able to walk away and then digest it in smaller increments helped me make my way through the book – it’s a really good read to savor! I really enjoyed taking my time with it; I got invested in all the members of the family and their storylines and while this book does cover a lot of really difficult, and often sad, topics, there is so much to keep your interest. I read one review that compared it to a hike where the journey along the way is more important than the view at the end and I’d wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. It’s not one to choose if you’re in the mood for a light, quick read, but if you’re interested in a well-written story with history and depth, I do recommend giving this one a chance!

Here’s to lots more reading while snuggling a sweet baby in August!

June 2022 Book Review

Good morning and Happy July!

Our June was absolutely nuts around here. For one thing, we went on two different vacations: eight days in Virginia Beach with Justin’s family and then six days in Maryland with some friends. That’s 14 days of being on vacation (with kids!) AND roughly thirty-eight hours in the car total on the road trips. That’s right. THIRTY. EIGHT. HOURS. In a car. With two small children and a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy. I honestly don’t know what we were thinking haha, but suffice to say we made lots of memories!

We’re thankful that we had the ability to get some traveling in, but traveling with kids is basically just parenting in a different location. While each trip was fun, neither was what I would call particularly relaxing and I had virtually no time for reading. When we were home, I was either packing, unpacking, repacking, or going about our normal days of cleaning/laundry/playground days/home projects/etc. It was such a full month that I was only able to get through one book, but it was one I have a lot of thoughts about!

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali

Teenaged Roya is growing up in Tehran, Iran in the 1950s amidst quite a bit of political turmoil – there are people passionately loyal to the Shah, those who think Russia and the communists have the right idea, and those who are striving for democracy and have hopes pinned on their prime minister. An encounter in her beloved stationary shop introduces Roya to Bahman, a young man with a yearning for justice and democracy, and it isn’t long before they fall deeply in love. But certain forces are at work to keep them apart, and on the date they are supposed to get married, violence erupts – a violence that will change their country, and their lives, forever.

This was historical fiction like I’ve never read before. Prior to this book, I knew next to nothing about the Iranian Coup. While these characters were fictional, many of the events talked about really did happen and it was eye-opening for sure. I will say, Roya and Bahman are characters you want to root for, and it’s such a mixture of feelings to see how their lives play out. The book started out a little slow but picked up as I went along. While there are some lighthearted, enjoyable parts, overall this book is a sweeping read through the decades and covers some heavier moments – while it’s hard to use words like “enjoyed” when I think about my feelings, it is powerfully written and poignant and I can almost promise you’ll have thoughts afterwards. We read this for my book club and there was no shortage of discussion! It’s got romance, it’s got some mystery, it’s got some tragedy, it’s got some hope, and it’s got a lot of references to Iranian people, places, foods, and events. If you enjoy historical fiction about lesser-known events in world history (I don’t think anyone in my book club knew much, if anything, about this history in Iran and how the United States was involved as well), I think this is a great choice!

***

Now I’m curious – do you find you read more or less during the summer months? I would normally say more, but this year is definitely much less. Our July is hopefully going to be much calmer – we’re staying home and hosting quite a bit, but I think there will be much more room for reading in my life in the coming weeks. I’m excited to get back into my reading stack!

May 2022 Book Reviews

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?

April 2022 Book Reviews

The time of year has come where temperatures are rising, green leaves are starting to appear, and we’re all inundated with this meme:

Ha! May is here and I’m so excited for spring. We are planning to spend as much time as possible outside and soak up the warm weather and sunshine – and of course, I’ll be reading lots of books on my porch swing or out on my deck. I can’t wait! But before I get to any of that, let’s re-cap the three books I read in April.

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead by Elle Cosimano

Back in March, I read Finlay Donovan is Killing It and enjoyed it once I accepted that it was going to be a bit over the top and I needed to just go with it. This book picks up shortly after the first one leaves off. Finlay is trying to write her next novel and disentangle herself from her inadvertent involvement with the Russian mob, which is proving harder than not when she realizes there is a hit out there for her ex-husband. In her efforts to protect her ex-husband and children and figure out who is trying to kill him, she gets tangled up deeper and deeper in a web of deception and secrets, all while trying to balance motherhood and the two men who keep trying to fit into her love life.

Thanks to the first book being fresh in my mind, I knew going into this that I would have to be ready for some unrealistic and even downright zany antics and plotlines. That beings said, I wasn’t as into it this time around. It did continue to be far-fetched, but one extra frustration I had was that it felt like it kind of went nowhere and left me with more questions than answers. Once I finished the book, I realized there is absolutely going to be a third installment (and looking online, it looks like there may even be a fourth planned!?) which makes sense with the plot of this second book now but was kind of frustrating while reading. I still wanted to root for Finlay and I still loved her dynamic with Vero, but overall this book didn’t hit quite as high for me. The first book read independently while this one very much felt like a middle book in a set. I’m not sure if I’ll read the third book or not – looks like it is scheduled to come out in 2023 so stay tuned.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

With a globe-trotting mother and a never-revealed father, Nina Hill has led a quiet life. She enjoys her job at a bookstore and being part of a top-notch trivia quiz team, but other than that she is perfectly content to spend her days at home curled up with a book and her cat. She doesn’t feel the need for more people in her life and certainly not an entire family, but that’s just what she gets when a lawyer shows up one day and tells her her father died and left her something in his will . . . and also more siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews than she knows what to do with. On top of that, her trivia rival seems to want to get to know her (maybe even date her?) and how on earth can she manage all these people in her life now?

This book reminded me a lot of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and if you really liked that book, I would definitely recommend this one. Nina Hill is reserved and a bit quirky, but mostly endearing and you want to root for her. I loved the dynamics with the new family and enjoyed all the sections that had any of her new family members present. I also enjoyed watching her and Tom slowly get to know one another and liked that there was a bit of Tom’s perspective and thoughts thrown in. The narration is a little unique where it is mostly giving Nina’s perspective, but every now and then another character’s thoughts get included briefly. My main stumbling point with the book is how slowly it moves and how many mundane, everyday details are given. If you like a slow, character-driven, lots of extra details included style of writing, you will probably enjoy this book. For me, I just wanted it to move a little quicker and I wanted more details of relationship development and less of Nina’s everyday life that didn’t really relate to the plot. Overall, I would say that while it didn’t knock my socks off, I did enjoy it and think it’s a nice little read, particularly for Eleanor Oliphant fans.

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey of Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile

I have talked many many times about my love for Gretchen Rubin and her personality framework The Four Tendencies, which is all about habit formation and responding to inner and outer expectations. This framework has really impacted my life and how I understand myself and others, but I’ve never really gotten into other frameworks such as Myers-Briggs or the “Big Five” or anything. But after several people have talked to me over the years about the Enneagram and how they think I would enjoy learning about it, I decided to finally check it out.

First of all – wow! I took a test to determine my number and give me a starting point before I read the book (not sure if that’s recommended or not, but I’m personally glad I did it that way) and I will say reading the book has given me 100% affirmation for my number (I am a 1w2). I think this book is incredibly insightful and gives a ton of food for thought about knowing and understanding yourself better – your strengths and weaknesses and how to work with your type instead of against your type. It talks about fears, desires, motivations, what you are most inclined to do in times of security and in times of stress and I just found it to be fascinating and eerily accurate for my life. Justin and I have had multiple conversations about it and how our individual numbers come into play in our marriage in different ways (he is a 9). Overall, I am fascinated and I would highly recommend this book as a great starting point to anyone wanting to find out more about the Enneagram or who is interested in personality frameworks and knowing yourself better.

Here’s to another great month of reading – and lots of warm days to take my books outside!

March 2022 Book Reviews

Happy Wednesday and happy book review day!

March was a longer month but I spent a lot of my free time working on projects like my kids’ shared bedroom and my sister’s nursery dresser. I did manage to get in three books and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed them all! Let’s dive right in.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

In a barely-thought-out move to try and convince her best friend that she is dating someone, PhD graduate student Olive grabs the first man she sees in a hallway and kisses him while her best friend walks by. Unfortunately for her, she realizes after the kiss that the random man she grabbed is notorious faculty member Adam Carlsen, who is known for being a brilliant scientist . . . and a jerk. It turns out that rather than turn her in for disciplinary action, Adam has his own reasons for wanting to appear to be in a relationship, so he and Olive agree to mutually beneficial fake dating terms. With an entire department looking on, Olive and Adam may both be experienced scientists, but neither of them can predict just how this particular experiment will turn out.

I think this book is a great choice if you love a romance and also love science, although I know next to nothing about the PhD graduate science world and still enjoyed this read. I loved Olive and Adam individually and together, and I thought the side characters were all interesting and contributed well to the plot. I want to be friends with this crew! I enjoy a story where a theme is there is more to a person than meets the eye, and also where you learn to love a character for entirely who they are – good qualities and flaws alike. Also, despite many aspects of this book being pretty predictable (you can probably guess most of the plot just based on my synopsis), there were still a couple plot points that were very surprising to me and kept things interesting. There are some steamy parts that make it a rated-R read, so be aware if that’s not your thing. Overall, it’s funny, it’s entertaining, it’s cute, and I enjoyed it.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan is divorced, broke, and struggling to keep things together. On top of a nearly- inevitable custody battle with her ex over their two young children, she’s way behind on writing a novel that she’s already been paid for. After a harried morning at home that involved a pair of scissors and an unfortunate toddler haircut, Finlay meets with her agent in a Panera to discuss the details of her new suspense novel. As she describes the gory details of a book she has yet to write, she is overheard by a woman at the next table who mistakes her for a contract killer – suddenly, Finlay has an unexpected job offer and a way out of her financial crisis. That is, if she’s willing to kill for it. And she totally isn’t . . . right?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t enjoy this book at first. I despise the “hot mess mom” trope and Finlay is really, really leaning into it in the beginning. The plot is also pretty far-fetched and at first feels more than a little ridiculous. Thankfully, around 15-20% of the way in, another character is introduced that I think brought a lot of balance to the story. I also decided to just accept that this book was not going to feel entirely realistic and I would just go with it. From that point on, I really enjoyed it! It started to feel like an mystery, as the reader is trying to figure out what is going on right along with Finlay. It didn’t really feel suspenseful so much as amusing, but I still read it quickly because I wanted to know what happened. So my advice if you read this one is to not take it too seriously and just let yourself indulge a bit in a wild ride. Once I did those things, I found this book to be entertaining and fun!

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey

Fox Thornton is a known playboy who doesn’t allow anyone, including himself, to take him too seriously. He’s perfectly happy with just being known for good looks and a good time, but Hannah Bellinger is different. She’s the first woman in his life who is interested in being his friend and nothing more. He can be completely himself around her and it turns out, she actually likes him for his personality. It was one thing when she lived in LA and they just texted everyday, but now Hannah is back in town working on a movie set and staying in his guest room while pining over her unrequited crush on the movie’s director. As he tries to convince Hannah that she can be the leading lady in her own life and go for what she really wants, Fox starts to find himself in the uncomfortable position of thinking that maybe he too can be more than what he’s always tried to convince people he is. Maybe he too can have more. And maybe the more that he wants is with Hannah.

Last month I read the first book of this series, It Happened One Summer, and wasn’t a huge fan. Normally, I wouldn’t have been interested in the sequel, but that book had already introduced Fox and Hannah and the beginning of their friendship and I knew that I would feel differently about this book. I was right! This book is a slower burn and no pun intended, had me hooked from the beginning. Hannah and Fox are adorable! It is very steamy and for sure rated-R, but it goes beyond many other romances by diving into deeper topics like imposter syndrome, toxic masculinity, and oversexualizing young men while also being very fun and flirty. I loved the characters, I loved seeing Hannah and Fox’s relationship develop, I loved seeing both of them grow in their confidence to fight for what they wanted. They’re both just likeable and easy to cheer for. I would say it does help to read the first one and see the beginnings of their friendship, but it’s definitely not necessary to enjoy this book. If you don’t mind some language and steamy scenes, I would recommend this one!

I love when a month has all winners! What have you been reading and loving lately?

February 2022 Book Reviews

Another month, another round of fun reads!

Even though February is a short month, I was able to fit in three books: a rom com, a domestic thriller, and an ensemble-cast novel that gave me Love Actually vibes. I have a lot of thoughts about each one so let’s just go ahead and jump right in.

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

Party-girl LA socialite Piper Bellinger goes a little too far with hosting an illegal rooftop party as a way to save face after a breakup, which results in her wealthy stepfather finally putting his foot down. Her punishment? Learning the value of hard work and money by taking over her late father’s run down dive bar in a small coastal town in Washington. There, she meets Brendan, a rugged sea captain who is immediately unimpressed and wants nothing to do with the snooty girl in the impractical shoes. But the town is small and Piper and Brendan can’t seem to stop running into one another, leading them to realize that maybe their first impressions weren’t quite right after all.

I went in with high hopes for this one but ultimately wasn’t as impressed with it as I’d hoped to be. For an enemies-to-lovers trope, I thought the relationship twisted pretty quickly from hate to love, and I felt like the character growth was pretty shallow despite the fact that the book is 380+ pages (waaaaay too long for a rom com like this in my opinion). I found myself only moderately interested in the characters and their dynamic and this book falls pretty mid-range for me. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. It’s worth nothing that this book is definitely rated-R for some very very steamy scenes so if that’s not your thing, I would avoid this one. All that being said, I am very interested in reading the next book that comes out in March! It will feature two of the side characters from this book and based on what I know already I think the character development and depth of relationship is going to be much stronger and I’m already invested!

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Nestled on the main street of a small town just outside of London, Nightingale Books has been a beloved haven for residents for decades. The owner, Julius, always had a knack for making people feel welcome and knowing just what books to recommend. It’s not until after his death, when his daughter Emilia inherits the bookshop, that it becomes evident just how much financial trouble the shop is in. Faced with some tough decisions about the future of the shop, Emilia can’t help but also see how big an impact her father and his shop had on so many people. As stories emerge of ways he impacted their lives, and customers both new and old come into the shop with their hopes, dreams, joys, and sorrows, the little world of Nightingale Books comes alive. Can Emilia really bear to part with it?

This book reminded me of Love Actually – it’s like the literary version of an ensemble-cast movie. There are a lot of characters and little subplots that all intertwine and connect to the bookshop in one way or another. Some storylines are given a lot of space to grow and develop, while we just see small snippets of others. It took me a bit of time to get used to the story jumping between subplots, and also to sort out the characters in my mind, but once I did I really enjoyed this book. The setting is completely charming: a quaint and cozy bookshop nestled in a small English village? When can I visit!? It is definitely a slower, character-driven plot so if you’re looking for a fast-paced or mindless read, this probably isn’t it, but I enjoyed all the unique storylines and how they wove together. I found the book to be both heartwarming and satisfying and my little book-loving heart savored it.

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

In a quiet suburban neighborhood in Melbourne, neighbors smile, wave, and politely exchange small talk. But how well do they really know what is going on in one another’s lives and homes? There’s Essie, who in a desperate act of postpartum depression, once left her first baby unattended in a park and is now a sleep-deprived mother of two. There’s Fran, who has been living for months with a pit of dread in her stomach that her world might unravel at any moment. There’s Ange, who hit the #jackpot with a hot husband who is a devoted father and does all the right things. And then there’s the new neighbor Isabelle: no kids, no partner, and an outlier for the type of person who chooses to live in this neighborhood. Is it just a coincidence that she is renting here? Or is her presence very, very deliberate?

I’ll tell you one thing: Sally Hepworth is climbing the ranks to becoming one of my favorite authors. I just never quite know what I’m getting into with her books and they all leave me spellbound! I flew through this book in half a day – I just couldn’t put it down. It’s not scary or gory or anything, just a true domestic mystery (I’d even call it a light thriller) with some surprising twists. I was invested in each storyline and uncovering the secrets inside each household – at one point my jaw even dropped! The characters are all flawed, but real, and it was really interesting to see how they all dealt with the complicated things happening in their lives. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would definitely recommend, especially if you enjoyed other books by this author.

My March stack of books is already piling up and I’m really excited about a couple of the reads. I have a good feeling that it’s about to be another great month of reading!

January 2022 Book Reviews

I am slowly getting back into the swing of things around here! January had us taking it easy – I didn’t do many projects, read many books, or post much of anything on the blog. We had a lot going on in our family and it was important to take a step back and just focus on other things that needed my attention. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that this past weekend I started back up with projects: on Saturday I helped my sister lay flooring in her kitchen and on Sunday, I continued work on the guest room stencil. It has felt really good to get back into projects and I’m excited to get back into the blog as well, starting with one of my favorite things to post – the monthly book review!

In January I was able to read two books: a fun rom com and a twisty-turny thriller. I really enjoyed them both, so let’s dive in!

Shipped by Angie Hockman

Shipped by [Angie Hockman]

Henley’s professional dreams are on the brink of coming true: a director of marketing position is up for grabs at the cruise line she works for and she is on the short list. The only problem is the other contender is Graeme, the co-worker who has been making her life difficult since the moment he started working remotely with the company. To decide who gets the promotion, their boss sends them on a cruise to the Galapagos with a mission: draft a proposal on how to boost more bookings to this location. They’re assigned to the same cruise, which means that after bickering via email for years, they will finally meet each other face to face.

I saw a description that said this book is “The Hating Game meets The Unhoneymooners” and since I enjoyed both of those books I was immediately intrigued. Now having read the book, I would agree that it’s very much in line with those other books! It’s full of thoroughly enjoyable elements: fun and witty banter between the likeable main characters, a setting that gives you the travel bug, and some side characters adding interest and entertainment to the plot. I enjoy an enemies-to-lovers trope and came to love Henley and Graeme and their dynamic. I also appreciated some of the deeper themes of the book, specifically related to the workplace culture and female friendships. I kind of wished that I had saved it for summer because honestly, it would make for an excellent vacation/summer read but it was still fun to read even in January. There is a very small amount of language and I would say a moderate level of steam (more than a kiss, less than the open door scenes in The Hating Game or The Unhoneymooners). Overall, this one was a win for me and definitely ranks up there in rom coms!

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

Rock Paper Scissors: A Novel by [Alice Feeney]

Adam and Amelia have hit an extended rough patch in their marriage and after Amelia wins a weekend away at a restored church in Scotland, it seems like the getaway might be the last chance to save their marriage. But as soon as they arrive, things seem off. There is no host to be seen, the church is incredibly remote, and it starts to become evident that winning this trip was no coincidence. Will their marriage survive this weekend? Will they both survive this weekend?

I’ve never read a book by this author before but I’m already a fan after this thriller! The twists and turns felt like an absolute roller coaster: I went back and forth so many times trying to figure out what was going on and what the Adam and Amelia’s motivations were. I loved that the flashbacks to earlier times were shared in the form of anniversary letters written each year – it added a unique component to the writing and to figuring out the dynamic of the marriage. The characters are very flawed, and as a reader I sympathized with them in some aspects but also found them to be incredibly unlikeable in others. It made it hard to know who to “root for” or who to suspect if that makes sense, which just added to the twisty nature of the plot. I thought I had this book figured out multiple times, but I was still shocked (and at one point, even a little disturbed) by the revelations. It’s not gory or even really psychological, just truly a thriller from start to finish. I flew through it and definitely recommend!

After a lighter reading month in January, I’m excited to tackle my TBR list in earnest in February. As always, if you have any great recs, please send them my way!

December 2021 Book Reviews: Part Two

The first book reviews of 2022 are here! Earlier in December, I shared reviews for the first half of the month since many of them were holiday themed. You can read all about the books I read and their reviews here. Today I’m covering the three books I read in the second half of the month: two holiday reads and one memoir. Let’s dive in!

Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes

Christmas in Paris: A Novel by [Anita Hughes]

After calling off her wedding a week earlier, Isabel decides to go on her Parisian honeymoon by herself. While enjoying the view from her hotel balcony, she accidentally locks herself out of her room and luckily is rescued by Alec, the Frenchman staying in the room next door. Alec is also nursing a broken heart after a failed engagement and the two start to spend time together. When they run into a fortune teller in a street market in Paris, her prediction makes Isabel causes Isabel to become singularly focused on finding a way to make that prediction, and her happily ever after, come true.

I do not like to be super negative with reviews, but wow oh wow I did not enjoy this book. This was very nearly a Did Not Finish for me. There was way too much time spent on Alec and Isabel’s flashbacks to their previous relationships and not nearly enough time spent on present-day relationship development to make it feel believable. The plot was unrealistic and jumped all over the place and the characters seemed superficial and shallow. I found myself getting especially annoyed with Isabel – she seemed fickle and immature both in her previous relationships and in her present day self. There’s a lot of luxury and Parisian references, but it didn’t feel particularly Christmas-y and there were too many aspects of the plot that just felt trivial and bizarre to me. I unfortunately cannot recommend this one at all.

Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday

Duke, Actually: A Novel by [Jenny Holiday]

Dani Martinez is post-men. After her soon-to-be-ex-husband left her for a woman twenty years his junior, she has decided to shift her focus away from men and dating and onto getting tenure at her job as a professor while preparing to be the best woman in her best friend Leo’s wedding. Max, or rather, Maximillian von Hansburg, Baron of Laudon and heir to the Duke of Aquilla, is also going to be in the wedding, which some may consider surprising since he was formerly engaged to the bride-to-be. While there was no love lost in that failed engagement, Max has no interest in fulfilling his family’s wishes and marrying their next choice in bride. Still, he goes to New York to pretend to care about his parent’s wishes and there he meets up with Dani. The two strike up a platonic friendship that continues to grow over time. As the wedding approaches and they become more and more important to one another, it seems like the friendship may in fact have grown into something more.

Once I started reading, I realized that the author had previously written a book about the love story of Leo and Marie, the couple getting married in this one. Dani and Max were both in that book, and it seems like they even met briefly there, so at first it did feel like I missed a step. It wasn’t really a big deal, and once the story got going it didn’t matter, but there were a few references to the past book and how they initially met that threw me off a tiny bit. Despite that, I enjoyed this book. It is set around Christmas time and does have Christmas-y references, but Christmas is not a central part of the book. Instead, it’s all about Max and Dani and how they develop a close friendship that turns into something more. I am a sucker for a best-friends-to-lovers storyline – Justin and I were really close friends before we ever started dating, so these storylines have a special place in my heart. I loved Dani, I loved Max, I loved how they supported one another, I loved the character development, I loved the side characters, I loved picturing the setting in Aquilla. I found it to be an enjoyable holiday(ish) rom com! It does fall in the rated-R category for some steamy scenes. I thought Max and Dani were convincing and charismatic and I was rooting for them the whole time. I enjoyed it!

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

In this memoir, Michelle explores her childhood memories of growing up in Oregon as one of the few Korean children in the community, traveling to Seoul in the summers to visit her mothers family, and her relationship with her now-deceased mother over the years. Through vast descriptions of Korean food and culture, she weaves stories of her life, family, grief, hope, personal dreams, and identity.

This book was chosen by my book club and I had high hopes for it. It’s on tons of bestseller lists, I’ve seen rave reviews online, I’ve heard podcast interviews with the author – it was all set up in my mind to be an astonishing memoir to read. And in reality, it was . . . fine. Many members of my book club agreed: there’s nothing wrong with it, but we couldn’t quite understand why it was so hyped up? While the author has found success in an Indie rock band, none of us had ever heard of her before so we were starting from ground zero. There are a lot of Korean food references, and as someone who is not a big fan of Korean food, I wasn’t interested in that much of it. It feels kind of strange critiquing a memoir like this because it was clearly very personal for the author, who vulnerably writes about so much of her life and family. I did enjoy reading about the mother-daughter dynamic and their family in general, and the way the author writes about her grief is both touching and relatable. I didn’t not like this book, but I think it was too overhyped in my mind and definitely didn’t live up to the high standards. It’s a solid mid-range memoir for sure, and if you are a fan of the author’s music or particularly interested in Korean food and culture, it’s worth checking out. But if those things don’t interest you, the book may be overhyped for you as well.

What have you been reading lately?

December 2021 Book Reviews: Part One

What’s this? A book review round up happening in the middle of a month? Yep – I’m mixing things up in December!

Christmas Eve is only one week away and I’ve been deep in the holiday reads over here. Last month I split up my book reviews into holiday reads vs. non-holiday reads and I was inspired to do something somewhat similar this month. I thought I’d split the month in half again but this time, split the first half and second half up. There are a few books so far this month that I really enjoyed and I thought it made the most sense to share them now instead of the end of the month to give you time to read one if you want before the holidays.

I’ve read six holiday books so far this month and since they’re all basically in the same genre, I kept with my “grade” ratings to distinguish where they fell for me overall. Let’s jump in!

Let it Snow by Nancy Thayer

Nantucket native Christina owns a little toy shop in a small shed on the wharf and is dismayed to find that her shed, along with the sheds where three of her friends house their businesses, have been bought by a wealthy old man who plans to increase the rent in the new year, effectively driving them out of business. Christina is determined to save her shop and appeal to the wealthy owner, who just so happens to have a darling grandchild and very handsome bachelor son that she quickly forms special bonds with. Can she save her shop, and possibly find the love she’s always dreamed of, in time for Christmas?

If I’m being honest, I almost quit at several points and barely made it through this book. I found the pace to be super slow and the writing to be overly descriptive about unimportant things – I feel like I know every single breakfast, lunch, and dinner that Christina ate. I didn’t think the characters, main or side, were developed enough, and the romance felt rushed and hard to believe. I just couldn’t get invested in it! I’m truly not trying to rip this book apart – I could see how a different person could find it to be a cute holiday slow burn in the realm of a sweet but cheesy Hallmark movie. It’s a pretty clean romance and Nantucket always makes for a charming setting. It might be a win for others, but I found myself to be pretty bored the whole time and give it a C- rating.

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

The Holiday Swap by [Maggie Knox]

When chef Charlie Goodwin gets hit on the head on the L.A. set of her reality baking show, she loses a lot more than consciousness; she also loses her ability to taste and smell—both critical to her success as show judge. Meanwhile, Charlie’s identical twin, Cass, is frantically trying to hold her own life together back in their quaint mountain hometown while running the family’s bustling bakery and dealing with her ex, who won’t get the memo that they’re over. With only days until Christmas, a desperate Charlie asks Cass to do something they haven’t done since they were kids: switch places. Looking for her own escape from reality, Cass agrees. But temporarily trading lives proves more complicated than they imagined, especially when rugged firefighter Jake Greenman and gorgeous physician assistant Miguel Rodriguez are thrown into the mix. Will the twins’ identity swap be a recipe for disaster, or does it have all the right ingredients for getting their lives back on track? (synopsis taken from Amazon)

I had to make a few conscious concessions when reading this book, the number one thing being: overlook the fact that these women are apparently so identical that no one in their lives noticed they switched places. Not only does no one notice, but every bizarre thing they do as one another gets written off without much question. It’s a bit implausible, and seems a little silly and immature to switch places as adults, but if you can get past that, this is an entertaining read! Charlie and Cass are spirited sisters, Jake and Miguel are both really likeable, the quaint little hometown makes for an appealing backdrop, and all the baking references add to a festive and cozy atmosphere. It’s a little cheesy and predictable in that Hallmark-y way, but I found it to be a whimsical, sweet, gratifying, feel-good clean romance. I’m giving this one an A- rating!

Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss

Ever since moving back to her hometown of Blexford, England, Kate has found fulfillment in living near her dad, engaging with her friends and community, and working as a fabric designer for her dream company. The only downfall is, her dating life in the small village hasn’t exactly been thrilling. When a dating agency’s Twelve Dates of Christmas event comes around, it seems like it might be the answer: three weeks until Christmas and twelve romantic and fun dates with handsome single men. Full of hope, Kate pays the fee and signs up for twelve dates, but as each one becomes more disastrous and disappointing than the last, the whole town becomes invested in Kate’s journey to discover love in time for Christmas.

The premise of this book got me so excited. A woman goes on multiple dates to find love while living in a charming British village at Christmas? Sign me up! I did love Kate and her dating mishaps, the quaint and festive setting, the cheeky British humor, and the overall concept. Unfortunately, it fell short of my hopeful expectations for one big reason: I found her best friend Matt to be supremely unlikeable. I get that they were supposed to have like a banter-y relationship where the arguing is a actually a chemistry thing, but it wasn’t endearing to me and I found myself turned off to his character on multiple occasions. It was also a bit too long for me (again, I get it, twelve dates is a lot to write about!) I feel like there were ways to trim it down, but then again there are probably readers who enjoyed all the descriptions and extra characters. In fact, if I had liked Matt at all, I probably wouldn’t have minded the length! As it is, I can’t give this book more than a B rating, which is sad because it had so much potential.

Christmas at Peachtree Bluff by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Christmas in Peachtree Bluff (The Peachtree Bluff Series Book 4) by [Kristy Woodson Harvey]

The Murphy women – matriarch Ansley and daughters Caroline, Sloane, and Emerson – are a close knit bunch. So when Caroline is struggling with a difficult divorce and the rebellious response of her teenaged daughter Vivi, she turns to her mother for help. As the “storm of the century” approaches the coastal town of Peachtree Bluff, Georgia a few weeks before Christmas, it’s decided that Ansley and her husband Jack will keep Vivi and take her on their planned vacation to Australia while the rest of the family evacuates to New York until the storm passes. But when Vivi’s reckless behavior causes her, Ansley, and Jack to miss their chance to get out of the storm’s path, they have to shelter in place in a dangerous hurricane. With no other way to access Peachtree Bluff by land or air, the Murphy sisters take Caroline’s boat and embark on a rescue mission to get back to their family and help rebuild their town in time for Christmas.

This is actually the fourth book in the Peachtree Bluff series, but I had never read the first three books and think this book can stand on its own. That being said, I think it did kind of work against me because I didn’t have prior feelings about the Murphy women to endear me to them. The women are layered and real, which is great, but it was hard for me to get past a few of their character flaws sometimes. It might have helped if I had previous experience with the characters! I did love the coastal small town setting, I liked the alternating narrative perspectives, and I liked that there was such a focus on family dynamics. I appreciated that it felt like a fresh Christmas story as the hurricane brought in a unique plot line leading up to the holidays. This book definitely feels very Southern – it’s sweet, a little cheesy at times, and ultimately satisfying. I give it a B+ rating.

A Cross-Country Christmas by Courtney Walsh

Lauren Richmond hasn’t gone home for Christmas in years. Part of it has to do with her parents’ tumultuous relationship and part of it has to do with an extreme fear of flying. But when her brother begs her to come home for the birth of his first baby, Lauren can’t say no. Unfortunately for her, the only last minute option available is catching a ride home with her brother’s best friend, and her long-time childhood crush, Will Sinclair. Still harboring hurt from an incident with Will ten years before, Lauren is determined to keep her heart closed off during the long trip from California to Illinois. But Will has changed a lot in the past decade and Lauren starts to find it harder and harder to convince herself not to open herself up to him again.

Out of all the books I read this month, I think this one might edge out the others as my favorite. I love a good enemies-to-lovers story (although this one is more like unrequited childhood crush with a one-sided grudge to lovers) and found this one to be entertaining from start to finish. I loved the dynamic between Lauren and Will and I loved that we got to have narration from both of them. The banter was lively, the relationship was believable, the pace was perfect, and I thought the character development was great. It’s charming, it’s heartwarming, it’s emotional, it’s fun. It’s also a clean romance. This is a great choice if you want to get into the Christmas spirit but don’t want a book that is overloaded with it – the holidays and festivities were definitely there but they’re secondary to Lauren and Will’s relationship. It was just a delightful little read to curl up next to the tree with. I don’t often finish a book thinking “I hope this gets made into a movie” but well . . . I hope this gets made into a movie. It’s definitely A, maybe even A+ range in my book. (Note: it’s a self-published title, so many libraries do not carry it. I had to actually order it on Amazon, and I’m not sure there is another way to access it at this point).

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt comes from a prominent Jewish family and has always strived to maintain her image of a Nice Jewish Girl, but deep down she’s hiding a big secret: she deeply loves Christmas. She loves it so much that she’s actually become a bestselling Christmas author writing under a pen name! But when her publisher demands a book about Hanukkah, she’s uninspired. Hanukkah isn’t merry and magical like Christmas, but she’s determined to come up with something. When her first love (and heartbreak) Jacob Greenberg returns to New York to coordinate the first-ever Matzah Ball, which promises to be glamourous and like nothing else ever seen in the Jewish community, she knows she has to attend. Rachel and Jacob haven’t seen each other since their brief summer camp romance years ago, but in working together on the Matzah Ball, they realize that the spark they had years ago is still very much alive, if only they trust can one another to not repeat the heartbreak from years ago.

Wow – I loved this one! I felt very out of my depth with all the Jewish references, but the author does a good job of subtly explaining most of the Hebrew phrases, names, and traditions so you’re not completely lost. I enjoyed learning more about Jewish culture. I loved Rachel and Jacob individually and together and I loved the families and friends and rich sense of community and tradition woven into their lives. I really appreciated that this was a rom com with quite a bit of depth- child abandonment, chronic illness, trusting the love and acceptance your family provides, identity, etc. It was funny and entertaining and meaningful at the same time. It satisfied my need for a festive read -fun, touching, and memorable. I really recommend this one – solid A rating for this holiday read!

Believe it or not, I still have a few more festive reads on my list to check off before the holidays get here. I’m still enjoying immersing myself in holiday spirit, but I’m also getting ready to branch out into other genres again so the second half of the month will be more of a mix. Stay tuned for more reviews coming in two weeks!