September 2019 Book Reviews

It’s that time of the month again – book review day!

It goes without saying that my life is pretty busy these days, so I’m not getting through as many books as I was before, although to be honest I’m just glad I’m able to read at all! I was kind of expecting to not be able to finish any books during this stage of two kids under the age of two years old. But then I discovered this:

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Turns out, there’s a lot of time I’m just sitting on the couch breastfeeding and the Boppy pillow makes a perfect book rest! I was able to get through two full books this month and they were both excellent so I’m excited to share them with you today. Here we go!

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

If you’ve been following my book reviews for a while, you know that I’m a bit of a historical fiction junkie. I love all types of historical fiction, but my favorite are the books that are based off of actual people or events that I haven’t known about before reading (books like The Alice Network, Before We Were Yours, etc.) This book falls into that category and I could not put it down. The book follows Lale, a young Jewish man from Slovakia who is taken to Auschwitz. Once there, he is given the role of tattooist and is made to mark all the new arrivals with their numbers. Since his role is so important, he has some special privileges and uses them to help out his fellow prisoners, particularly a woman named Gita. The author had interviewed Lale before his death and so the story was a re-creation of his experiences at the concentration camp, many of which were utterly horrifying. No matter how many times I read a novel about the Holocaust, I am still shocked and sickened by the depths of cruelty that occurred. There were parts that were very hard to read, but the story itself was gripping. Lale’s determination and courage are truly remarkable and I was inspired by the small acts of kindness that made such a huge difference to those they were bestowed upon. There were even moments that were romantic and sweet. It feels strange to say I enjoyed it, because it was difficult subject matter, so I will say that I was fascinated and highly recommend it.

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Sylvie Lee is a smart, successful daughter of Chinese immigrants who travels to the Netherlands, the place where she spent seven years of her childhood, to visit her dying grandmother and afterwards . . . she disappears. Her younger sister Amy is distraught with worry and heads to the Netherlands in search of her sister. Her desperation only increases as she encounters a slew of unanswered questions and limited police help. The more people she meets, the more it seems like no one is telling her the full story. It’s hard for me to sum up this book without giving too much away because it touches on so much: family, cultural difference, racism, life as an immigrant family. I will say that the first half started out very slowly for me. It felt like I had only questions and no answers, and I wasn’t even sure I cared enough to find out. I was kind of annoyed by Amy and how sheltered and naive she was. BUT. Around the halfway point, things took a turn and got very interesting and I was hooked! It became a true mystery for me; I was intrigued and flew through the second half. Overall I really enjoyed this read and definitely recommend it!

What have you been reading lately?

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August Book Reviews

Good morning friends!

Life with a toddler and newborn has been a bit hectic, so I’m just now getting around to my August book reviews even though we’re halfway through September already (how!?) Better late than never, right?

I got through two books last month before I had to put my reading on pause for last-minute baby prep and welcoming Vi into our family. Now that we’re settling into a *little* more of a routine around here, I’m hoping to get back into reading more! Might be wishful thinking, we’ll see how that goes… 😉 In the meantime, let’s look at what I read in August!

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The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

In the last couple months I’ve read and loved The Forgotten Room and The Glass Ocean, both written by a trio of authors. I decided to check out the individual authors work and since I’ve already read a lot of Beatriz Williams, I tried out this book from Karen White.  In this novel, Melanie is a realtor who has been gifted a historic home in Charleston, SC by a man she barely knows. While she sets about fixing it up to hopefully re-sell, she receives help from Jack, who believes the house may be hiding something of incredible value. As they work together to restore the house, it becomes clear that the house holds many secrets, and not all the secrets are willing to rest in peace. At times, the pace of this book seemed to drag and it took a while for me to decide if I even liked what I was reading. I wanted to figure out the answers to some of the mysteries laid out early on, so I kept reading and did start to enjoy it more as revelations were made. There were things I liked and things I didn’t. I enjoyed the fact that a lot of historical elements were brought in and I wanted to learn the truth behind what happened in the house. I didn’t fall in love with most of the characters like I wanted to and I felt like I had to do a lot of reading to get to the “good” stuff in the latter part of the book. I also wanted a little more closure at the end, but I believe this book is part of a series so it makes sense that some strings were left untied. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. I’d read something else by Karen White but I’m not dying to. It just fell pretty middle-of-the-road, decent read territory for me.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Now THIS book is going to stick with me. It was recommended to me by Justin’s cousin and I didn’t know much about it other than the facts that she loved it and that it was set in India. I spent 3 1/2 months studying abroad in India in college and have maintained an interest in the beautiful, complicated country ever since, so I checked out the book.

Oh my.

I did not know what I was getting into. This story is about two girls, Poornima and Savitha, who form a close friendship in childhood, but due to a devastating event, are separated from one another. The story chronicles their individual stories and how they always keep the faith to try to find their way back to one another.

This story is gripping, tragic, hopeful, and heartbreaking. Each girl shows a strength and resilience that is remarkable and inspiring, and the author writes in a way that kept me absolutely captivated, even when the content dealt with horrific events. The girls experience some of the worst of humanity, and their stories were difficult to read at times. Even though this is a work of fiction, it’s written in a way that seems very realistic (and unfortunately, I know enough about life in India for low-socioeconomic girls to know that their stories could be true, which is hard to fathom and process while reading). The story still manages to uplift and I admired the grit and willpower of each girl to keep going even when their situations felt overwhelming. Overall, I think this book is a compelling read and I highly recommend, (with the caveat that it does deal with heavy topics like human trafficking, sexual abuse, and extreme gender inequality, so if those topics are triggering for you, you might want to choose another read). 

Whew! That’s a wrap on August’s books. What have you been reading and loving lately?

July 2019 Book Reviews

Book review day is here!

Even though we have one more day left in July, I’m already through all my books for the month so I’m sharing my book review a little early. I read some really good ones this month and I’m excited to share them with you!

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The Latte Factor by David Bach

I listened to a lot of podcasts on our babymoon and one I really enjoyed was an episode of the Rise podcast where Rachel Hollis interviewed David Bach about how anyone can be financially free by following a few simple principles and changes in daily habits. I really enjoyed the podcast, and one of my 19 for 19 goals is to learn more about finances, so I was eager to read this book. To be honest, I didn’t gain much new wisdom from it. It is set up like a little mini novel where protagonist Zoe, whose finances are a mess, learns some very simple lessons about investing, saving, and living the life she wants by making small changes in her spending habits from a man named Henry whom she meets with in a coffee shop. Having listened to the podcast, I felt like I had already heard the high points of Bach’s message and most of the book was Zoe’s “story” and not so much financial information. I think this book could be a great resource if you are coming into it with the desire to change your financial situation but don’t have a lot of knowledge in saving/investing/budgeting/etc. Personally I felt like it was a little oversimplified and didn’t give me much new information; however, the concept of “the latte factor” is one that Justin and I have discussed multiple times since I first told him about it after listening to the podcast and I think it’s a great concept to keep in mind when you think about daily spending habits!

The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger

Annabel is living in Switzerland where her husband, Matthew, works for Swiss United, a lucrative, offshore bank. After Matthew’s plane crashes in the Alps, Annabel is left with many questions and few answers and decides to investigate the crash herself. Meanwhile, journalist Marina gets a hot tip on a story from her mentor and just as she begins to dig . . . her mentor ends up dead. She begins to look into Swiss United and soon uncovers some dangerous information that powerful people are willing to do anything to protect. As the women’s stories progress two things become clear: their stories are intertwined and they are both in danger unless the truth comes out. This thriller was unique for me in that I’ve never read anything involving lucrative wealth and offshore financing, and it kept me on my toes throughout. I always love novels that alternate narrative perspectives and this one was fast-paced and exciting. I never knew which characters were trustworthy and that added to the suspense for sure. It was definitely a page-turner for me and I really enjoyed it!

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White

In June, I read The Forgotten Room by this trio of authors and really enjoyed it so I was excited to learn that they also co-authored another book together and quickly checked it out from the library. The Glass Ocean centers around the tragedy of the sinking of the Lusitania and is written from three different female perspectives: Caroline, a wealthy passenger traveling on the Lusitania with her husband, Tess, a con man’s daughter who is hoping to pull one more job aboard the ship and then start fresh in England once the ship docks, and Sarah, a historian and author in 2013 who has opened a trunk filled with everything that her great-grandfather, a steward on the ship, had on his possession when his body was recovered from the ship’s wreckage, including some items that may have a huge impact on history. If you’ve been reading my book reviews for any amount of time, you know by now that I am a big fan of historical fiction and this book did not disappoint! I enjoyed reading all three women’s stories and the possibilities of wartime espionage and deception kept things interesting as the plot twisted and turned until the end. There were plenty of surprises and revelations to keep me hooked. Once again, I was impressed by the writing of these three writers and highly recommend this one!

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I really enjoy Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books and had heard nothing but great things about this one so I was very excited to finally come off the waiting list at the library and dive into this one. This one might be my favorite of hers yet! Daisy Jones and the Six was one of the most prominent rock bands of the 1970s until they broke up inexplicably after a concert and never got together again. The book is set up as an interview-style oral history where members of the band and others who were associated with them are interviewed about their beginning, rise to fame, and eventual demise. At several points during the book I had to remind myself that this book is fiction and these weren’t real people – it is written in a way that just makes the whole thing seem so real! I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the interview-style writing but I actually loved it and flew through the book. There were some surprising moments that I didn’t see coming and I found myself really invested in the band members. I will put in the disclaimer that it is about a 70’s rock band so sex, drug use, etc. is a big part of the band’s life. If that’s not your thing, well, be warned. Overall, I really enjoyed this read and highly recommend it!

My TBR list is currently very short, so if you have any recommendations for what I should read in August, send them my way! I’m going to try to get at least a couple read before baby comes and then . . . we’ll see. Ha!