March 2019 Book Reviews

It’s time for my favorite post of the month – my book reviews!

I read four books this month and they’re kind of all over the place. Two non-fiction and two fiction. One memoir and one self-help-ish. One about a plane crash and one that crashed in other ways for me. It was a fun mix of reads! Let’s dive in!

Phonto.jpg

Outer Order Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

It’s no secret that I love Gretchen Rubin so I’ve been anxiously awaiting her new book for months. It finally came out in March and I snapped up a copy (you know I’m excited when I actually buy the book instead of check out from the library) and flew through it.  This is a very quick read chuck full of inspiration for making small choices and changes towards clearing clutter to make more room in your life for order, calm, and happiness. In other words, pretty much all my favorite things in one place. 🙂  I started off underlining little nuggets of wisdom that particularly spoke to me, but I quickly realized that I would be underlining most of the book so I had to stop. It was just full of tips, tricks, and smart little hacks. I’ll stop gushing now because I think my inner nerd is showing  (ha!), but I really loved this book and will likely incorporate it into a full blog post at some point in the future. I highly recommend it if you need a little push in the right direction to make changes, big or small, towards a less cluttered life.

The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore

I happened to see this book on the shelf as I was checking out at the library and it peaked my interest but I had a lot of books already so I didn’t check it out. Then on another trip, I saw it again on a different shelf and took that as a sign I should read it. I’ll be honest, this book did not meet my expectations. It really seemed like it was going to be my jam: historical fiction, WWII Europe, family secrets and mysteries, what’s not to love? The Amazon blub even raves that it is “perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Beatriz Williams” and I adore both authors. So I was pretty disappointed when about 70 pages in I kind of just wanted to quit reading. This story just fell flat for me. There are SO many characters and plotlines and it feels really soap opera-y and hard to keep track of. I did find out afterwards that it’s part of a series, so maybe it wouldn’t have seemed so overwhelming and confusing if I had read the other books too? I don’t know. I kept reading because one storyline did interest me and I wanted to see how that particular one turned out. Overall, I felt like this book was just okay, but I really don’t have any interest in reading the rest of the series.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

I started this book because it was the first chosen book of the Happier Podcast book club and I was instantly intrigued. The author takes a DNA test without thinking much about it and is rocked to her core to find out that the father who raised her was not actually her biological father. Since both of her parents are deceased, she begins a journey of research and discovery to find out as much as she can about the truth of her origin. Her memoir is poignant and thought-provoking and touches on the deeply held beliefs we hold about ourselves. I could not stop talking to Justin about it as I was reading, and I’ve brought it up in several other conversations with other people since. It was just absolutely fascinating and I think it would make an excellent book club read! Highly recommend!

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I wouldn’t say I have a fear of flying but I definitely have increased anxiety on planes so a book about a plane crash is not exactly my normal pick. I enjoyed this one though! The plane crash actually happens very early on in the book and the rest of the story jumps back and forth between the lives of the victims before the crash and the present day where a team of agents try to unravel the mystery of why the plane crashed. A media circus forms around the two survivors of the crash: a four-year-old boy who is now worth millions and a man who swam them both to safety. Controversies and theories form about the man who was an unexpected passenger in the first place and he alternates between victim and suspect throughout. This book is part mystery, part thriller and I got really into it! There are some characters you root for, some you despise, and there were enough surprises to keep me guessing until the end. Overall, this was a good read!

That’s a wrap on my March reads. What is on your reading list this month?

Advertisements

My Ultimate Book Recommendation List

Once again I’m linking up with Shay and Erika for Let’s Look and today’s topic is favorite reads so I thought it was the perfect time to share my master list of book recommendations!

Top Book Recommendations

Let's Look

I frequently get asked for recommendations for books and I have been wanting to make a giant list for some time now (and even put it on my 19for19 list this year!) I do want to first to share this disclaimer though: I realize everyone’s preferences are different. These books are my personal favorites and the ones I find myself going back to again and again when others ask for recommendations. I think most are well-written, enjoyable reads. Some are on here even if they covered difficult topics that weren’t necessarily “enjoyable” but were thought-provoking or challenged my mind in some way. Some are included because they gave me a book hangover and I just could not stop thinking about what I read! I love them all for different reasons. You may not! I think what is most helpful is to read through my previous book reviews and see if you agree with my take on books that you have also read. If you find yourself nodding along to my reviews because you felt similarly when reading, we likely have similar taste. If you find yourself frequently saying “what was so great about that book? I thought it was boring” or “she’s crazy – how did she not enjoy that book? I thought it was brilliant” then maybe we just have different styles and you might not like my recommendations.

I didn’t have time to include a review of every book but did sometimes add a little note with a quick thought or two. I also tried to somewhat categorize these into basic genres just for ease of searching. I hope you find something here to enjoy! Without further ado, here are my top recommendations!

MY VERY FAVORITES

Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn T. Dingman (easy to read yet captivating and meaningful. As my fellow book lover friend Kaitlin described – “a beach read with depth”)

-ANYTHING written by Kate Morton. The Lake House, The Forgotten Garden, The House at Riverton, The Secret Keeper, The Distant Hours  – she is brilliant and I LOVE her books (I still need to read her most recent one – The Clockmaker’s Daughter). They are just phenomenal historical fiction – if I had to choose one to start I’d say The Secret Keeper but you honestly can’t go wrong with any.

General Fiction

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (This one is haunting. It stayed with me a looooong time)

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (read first)

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams (read second; they aren’t technically sequels but I would still read them in that order)

Defending Jacob by William Landry

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (very thought provoking in a what-the-heck-would-I-do-if this-happened-to-me way)

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

-My Grandmother Asked me to Tell you She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio (read first)

Morning Glory by Sarah Jio (read second)

“Beach” Reads

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

If You Only Knew by Kristin Higgins

Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy by Kevin Kwan (the last one is my favorite!)

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (cute little fictionalized William + Kate story)

Psychological Thriller

Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins (I feel like everyone has read it by now, but when it came out it blew my mind!)

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond (creepy and cult-like)

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Final Girls by Riley Sager (part psychological thriller, part homage to campy-slasher movies)

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (if you’ve read Gone Girl or Girl on a Train, it’s similar and may feel overdone but it comes with a HOT DANG twist)

Historical Fiction

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

World War Two Historical Fiction

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (this book does get very heavy and difficult to read at times)

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosay

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Young Adult

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (this is a series!)

Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements

-And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include that Harry Potter is among my very favorite series 😉

Nonfiction

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

-Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Educated by Tara Westover

 

And that’s my list (for now!) What are some of your go-to book recommendations?

Making Time for Reading

Good morning!

I’ve been preparing for a big book recommendation post outside of my normal monthly reviews (stay tuned for that next week!) but I thought today I would take a little time to just talk about how I actually fit reading in my days. To be honest, some days are easier than other to squeeze it in, but these are the biggest strategies I use to make time for reading.

1010181748
My happy place – so many possibilities!

Choose reading. I truly believe that you have time for whatever you choose to have time for, whether that be working out, reading, crafting, cooking, etc. I sometimes hear people say that they don’t have time to read and I just don’t buy that. You have time to do whatever you prioritize doing. If you have ten minutes to scroll through your Instagram feed, you have ten minutes to read. If you have an hour to binge something on Netflix, you have an hour to read. Reading might not be what you choose to do with the time you have, but you can make time for it if you want. For me, I just love reading so it is what I prioritize and often choose to do instead of other things (like watching TV in the evenings).

1115181953

Settle for a C+ with chores. Some days, when nap time rolls around I put housework or other tasks on pause and take a little mental escape into a book.  I feel so relaxed and refreshed and ready to jump back in to work after 30 minutes cozied up on the couch with a snuggly blanket and a good book! This doesn’t mean that I completely ignore my housework, it just means that I am okay with occasionally putting off things like folding laundry until later in the day.

1027181603
Happily reading with laundry waiting to be folded … later.

Stop reading crummy books. I used to be someone who finished every book I started, even if I didn’t like it. Then, I read The Goldfinch. Oh. My. Gosh. I truly hated this book and about 237 pages in, I realized I was dreading reading. I wasn’t enjoying the book, I was avoiding reading, and I still had over 500 pages to go. Umm, no thank you. I decided I value reading way to much to waste time on a book I don’t like and I returned it to the library. And instead of feeling like a failure, I was so excited to read again! I knew I could give myself permission to stop reading if I didn’t like the book. It’s easy to put off reading if I’m not enjoying the book but it’s so much easier to make time to read when I’m excited about the book and enjoying what I’m reading. This doesn’t mean I only read books I 100% adore because I think it’s important to stretch yourself a little, but if I’m totally dreading reading, then I stop the book.

Utilize down time. I do often read during LJ’s nap time, but I’m also not afraid to read when he’s awake and just having some quiet playtime. He is very good at independent play so sometimes I’ll sit on the playroom floor with him or in my cozy spot and read my book while he stacks blocks or plays with other toys. He likes to play with me nearby but this doesn’t mean he needs my constant undivided attention. I like that he has developed the skills to play by himself but I also like that I’m right there and can easily put down my book to engage with him if he brings over a toy to play with together. This doesn’t happen super often but it’s always nice when it does.

1220182202

Take books on errands.  If I’m in the middle of a book and leave on errands, I often take whatever book I’m reading with me. Maybe everything will run efficiently and I won’t have a chance to read a single word, but maybe there will be unexpected down time. I stopped in the pharmacy for my flu shot and had an unexpected 20 minute wait. Perfect time to read instead of just mindlessly scroll on my phone! I will especially make sure to take my book along to any type of appointment where I might have a wait before being seen – doctor, dentist, hair salon, etc. By having my book handy, I have the option to read a few pages instead of flip through a magazine there or my instagram feed.

 

What strategies do you use to fit in reading?

January 2019 Book Reviews

My first book review of 2019 is finally here!

I have been so excited for this post because this month, I picked four absolute winners. We’ve got historical fiction, some lighter, fun reads, and one captivating survival story.  I really enjoyed each book this go round and I’m so eager to share them with you, so let’s do this!january 2019 book reviews

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy following Shay’s blog Mix and Match Mama and I particularly like following her book reviews. I feel like we have pretty similar taste in what we enjoy reading so I often add a few of her suggestions to my To Be Read list. When she named this book as her very favorite book of 2018, I immediately put it on my list and it did not disappoint! It follows Ella, an American Rhodes scholar traveling to England to study literature at Oxford despite having a promising political career opportunity back home. While there, she takes missteps, develops friendships, and meets a handsome man. I don’t want to spoil to much, but this was such an enjoyable read! I loved the characters and got emotionally invested in the plot. It was the perfect blend of lighthearted fun and serious depth and made me want to ride around on a bike exploring all the charming, quaint little nooks around Oxford.

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

This was also a top read of 2018 for Shay so I put it on my list as well and OH. MY. GOSH. This book amazed me. Two strangers survive a plane crash on a remote, virtually unknown island in the South Pacific and have to work together to survive. I wasn’t really sure what all to expect here, but I absolutely loved how the author wove this story together. The story mostly centered on their life on the island but there were also chapters that included what I can only call “extra” information from other time periods that helped tie everything together. I thought this story was beautiful, heartbreaking, uplifting, complex, and captivating – I could not put it down and it gave me a week-long book hangover (you know, when you can’t even think about starting another book because the last one you read still weighs so heavily on your mind). I loved it!

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a book from cover to cover in one day, but I did it with this one. This book follows Rill Foss, a 12-year-old “river rat” living on a houseboat in the 1930s, and Avery Stafford, a well-connected lawyer with possible political ambitions in present day. These two women have seemingly nothing in common but as their individual stories unfold, connections are made and their stories begin to weave together in ways neither would have imagined. I had this book sitting on my couch one day when my mom was visiting and after reading the insert summary she promptly declared “I could never read this book!” While I personally loved it, it can be a very heavy read, as the fiction story is based off of a disturbing real-life scandal in Memphis from the 1920s to the 1950s (one I had previously known nothing about). There were times where it made my mama heart just break into pieces; however, despite the tragic and distressing events of the past, the author spun an emotional and moving tale of  family, identity, and belonging. I couldn’t put it down and flew through it.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

In October, I read Crazy Rich Asians and really enjoyed it, then in December I read China Rich Girlfriend and thought it was just okay. This month, I finished the trilogy with Rich People Problems and oh my gosh I LOVED it! I think it helped that there was one really big central story line and just a few side plots that tied together. In this story, Nick Young’s incredibly wealthy grandmother is dying and all his wacky relatives are gathering together in her mansion in Singapore to pay their last respects (and make sure they’re in her will). I loved the characters, I loved the downright zany situations they find themselves in, I loved the way everything from the previous two books came together in just a perfect way. I was really satisfied with how this wrapped up the trilogy and didn’t leave any loose ends. This was definitely my favorite book in the series, but you really do need to read the whole series in order because the plot lines build off one another.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

December 2018 Book Reviews

Good morning friends!

Today, I’m rounding out my 2018 book reviews with the books I read in December. I can’t believe that we’re in a new year now but I’m excited to dive into my reading list for 2019 now so if you have suggestions for books I need to add, please share them in the comments section. But first, let’s jump in to my December reads!

December 2018 Book Reviews.jpg

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

china rich girlfriend

In October, I read Crazy Rich Asians and really enjoyed it so I was excited to read the sequel. To be completely honest, it didn’t quite meet my high expectations. If you read the synopsis, it seems like the story will mostly center around Rachel and Nick’s wedding and the search for Rachel’s birth father, but it took like 70 pages to even have a chapter with them. The plot didn’t focus nearly enough on Nick and Rachel but instead centered a lot more on other characters like Astrid (whom I love, so that was okay) and Kitty Pong (while I do find her character entertaining, I got annoyed by how much she dominated the book). That being said, this book had both new and returning larger-than-life characters and many zany mishaps throughout the chapters. It was a quirky, entertaining read and I did enjoy it, but I liked Crazy Rich Asians better. I’ll be reading the third installment, Rich People Problems, in January so I’m hoping it is more like the first book.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

the war that saved my life

My sister teaches in a middle school and has seen this book circulated a lot lately so she suggested we each read it so we could discuss (like a mini sister book club – how great is that?!) This young adult read follows Ada, a young girl with a clubfoot deformity who has never been educated or allowed to leave the dismal little apartment she shares with her mother and younger brother. When the children of London are evacuated to the countryside for safety during WWII, she sneaks off with her brother and they are both placed in the care of a woman named Susan. As time goes on, the three learn to trust one another and find healing from their individual pasts. This book was SO GOOD. Even though it is a young adult novel, I absolutely think adult readers would love this book. I fell in love with all the characters and got invested in each of their stories. The author did such a great job of diving into Ada’s psychological state and how previous parental abuse and neglect played into how she reacted to and dealt with her new life where she was treated normally. I felt all. the. feels. and wholeheartedly recommend this read!

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

when life gives you lululemons

This book features Emily Charlton and is a follow-up to her character’s story in The Devil Wears Prada; however, I haven’t read that book and think this one stands alone. The plot follows Emily, a publicity manager for celebrities who is losing clients to a competitor left and right, Karolina, a former supermodel whose life and marriage are falling apart in the aftermath of a DUI, and Miriam, a lawyer turned stay-at-home mom who recently left New York for the suburbs of Connecticut. This eclectic trio bands together in Greenwich, CT to help one another with their individual problems. This book fell pretty middle-of-the-road for me. It may have been because I just read China Rich Girlfriend, but I was kind of turned off by the opulent wealth, over-the-top spending, and huge emphasis on superficial appearances displayed by the Greenwich crowd. There was also some rated-R-leaning content that felt unnecessary to the plot. However, there were some very entertaining elements  and I got particularly invested in Karolina’s storyline. Overall, I finished the book pretty satisfied!

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated.jpgTara Westover was raised in rural Idaho by an extremely religious, survivalist family. She received no formal education and had little contact with the outside world during her childhood because her father distrusted the government and constantly prepared his family for the End Days. Her childhood was often dangerous and reading about it was both frustrating and straight up distressing. It’s just mind-boggling to me that someone would actually experience a childhood like hers. It was absolutely heartbreaking to read about at times. That being said, I was blown away by how she rose above her circumstances and got herself into college and beyond with the little education she received as a child. Her resilience is commendable, but I appreciated how she also shared the inner conflicts she felt with trying to reconcile what the outside world is actually like with the way that she had been raised to believe the world worked, as well as the struggle she felt in still wanting to connect with her family even though they did not see eye to eye. She doesn’t sugarcoat things, she is honest with possible faults in her memories, and she is fair in her descriptions of relationships. I think this memoir would make for an awesome book club discussion and definitely recommend it.

And that’s a wrap on my 2018 reads. What should I add to my list for 2019?

October 2018 Book Review {Part Two}

Good morning friends!

Today I’m wrapping up the reviews for the books I read in October – if you missed Part One be sure to check it out here.

October 2018 Part Two

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network

Charlie St. Clair is a college girl in search of her cousin who went missing in France in WWII. Her search leads her to Eve Gardiner, a former WWI spy harboring bitterness and regret over long ago happenings within the spy organization known as The Alice Network. Charlie and Eve (along with Eve’s hired helper, a Scottish man named Finn) set off to France to try to discover the truth of what really happened to those they’ve known. The more information they learn, the more entwined their two separate stories and searches become.

So first off, I am a historical fiction junkie. Give me historical fiction about an obscure female heroine from WWI and I am ALL over it. I absolutely loved reading about The Alice Network and devoured information about the real Louise de Bettignies and her story on Wikipedia after finishing this novel. I enjoyed the dynamic between Charlie, Eve, and Finn and thought the characters came to life throughout. That being said, the stories alternated between Eve’s WWI experience and Charlie’s post-WWII quest and I often found myself hoping perspectives would shift so things picked up. Some parts went too slowly for me and the book seemed a bit long. I kept wanting to find out more information and the slow reveals and little hints were just tantalizing. Eve’s chapters were fascinating but I wasn’t as into Charlie’s stories. I found her equations (a strange mental game she plays) unnecessary and boring and her backstory wasn’t as interesting to me. However, I was eager to find out how Eve and Charlie’s stories were connected and as truths came to light I became very invested in how things would turn out. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it, but it probably could have been a little condensed.

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

The Summer Wives

In general, I love Beatriz Williams and I really enjoy her Schuyler family stories. Sometimes they connect with one another and have overlapping characters, but this book 100% stands on it’s own. This novel is set on Winthrop Island, a small New England island where the community is comprised of the wealthy summer Families and the working-class Portuguese population who live there year-round. The plot is divided into three different time periods (1930, 1951, and 1969) and events that happened over the course of the summers in each of those years. While the narrators and time periods change, I didn’t find it hard to keep the story lines straight and understand events and how everything connected. (In fact, I followed it almost too well and figured out where the plot was going around page 150, which was a little disappointing because I like to be surprised). I loved the characters, the setting, and most of the plot line, although I will say that there was a lot of unnecessary rated-R content that took away from the story for me. There were also a few times, particularly with the 1969 timeline, where I felt like the story dragged a little but for the most part I was drawn in and intrigued by how the individual stories were woven together. Overall, I thought this was a great read!

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Force of Nature.jpg

Back in May, I read The Dry and was told that Harper had another book following the same main character so I immediately added it to my reading list. In this novel, Aaron Falk is working on a big money laundering case when his key contact within the company, Alice Russell, goes missing on a corporate retreat in the isolated Australian wilderness. The four other women she was in the woods with all return together and each remembers things that happened slightly differently. The story is told through Falk’s present investigations/the search for Alice and flashbacks alternating points of views from the women in the wilderness. One thing that Harper does really well in her books is to describe the scenery so well that it becomes like an actual character in her stories. I could feel the claustrophobia of being surrounded by thick bushland, I could imagine how turned around and scared I would have become had I been lost in this vast wilderness. I felt the paranoia of the women in the woods as their panic levels rose and feral instincts kicked in. As the story twisted and turned, Harper dropped enough small tidbits that I formed various ideas of how things might play out but I was still surprised by the final turn of events. I do wish the author would dive a little more into Falk’s personal life, because I love reading about his character and she doesn’t spend a lot of time on it; nonetheless, it was an exciting thriller without being too creepy and I flew through it. I recommend it, but I suggest reading The Dry first because there are a few tiny mentions of that plot in this story (plus it is just a fantastic read)!

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?

August 2018 Book Review

Hi friends!

It’s time for another summer reading list book review. Today I’m reviewing the books that I read in August – and without further ado, here we go!

August Book Review

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Girl Wash Your Face

This book has certainly been making the rounds on social media lately and while I had never heard of Rachel Hollis before, I had a ton of people tell me how much they absolutely loved this book so I was excited to read it. I went in with really high expectations and while it wasn’t OMG-earth-shattering from start to finish for me, I did enjoy it. Each chapter in this book is dedicated to a lie the author used to believe that got in the way of her happiness (i.e. “I’ll start tomorrow,” “I’m not a good mom”) and how she worked through that lie to no longer believe it to be true. There were some amazing chapters that really spoke to me and gave me a lot to think about (one section in particular felt like it was written specifically for me) and there were other chapters that didn’t resonate much with me at all. I liked the author’s conversational writing style and I appreciated her insight on things like motherhood, self-worth and self-care. I feel like there are a lot of quote-worthy nuggets in there that are good for daily inspiration or a pick-me-up. I did think it was weird that it’s marketed as a Christian book but didn’t have much reference to how the author’s faith shaped her life and instead was a “you are in charge of you” message. Just something to be aware of if you’re thinking this book will read more like a devotional (it doesn’t).  Even so, I enjoyed this book, gained some wisdom and encouragement from it, and recommend it.

An American Marriage by Tayari JonesAn American Marriage

Celestial and Roy are recently married and starting their life out with big dreams for their future in Atlanta. Unfortunately, they travel to visit Roy’s family in Louisiana and while there, Roy is accused of a crime he did not commit and sentenced to 12 years in jail.  It is hard to put into words how I feel about this book. It is very well written; the characters are vividly described and you really feel for the them and the situation they find themselves in. It covers many thought-provoking topics: the injustice of racial profiling and prejudice in the criminal justice system, the impact of a wrongful conviction on the accused and everyone close to him, how fragile marriage can be if a couple is separated, what loyalty means and whether it’s fair to ask for (and if so, for how long). There are some really hard, heavy moments and tough choices made throughout the book that made it depressing for me to read at times. It just made me so sad and frustrated to think about how things “could have been” without this wrongful conviction. But then, isn’t that the point? The fact that I felt that way is because I was drawn deeply into the story and felt for each one of the characters and so wanted things to turn out well for them.  I do think it’s a remarkable piece of writing and worth checking out!

All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church

All the Beautiful Girls

Lily Decker is orphaned at eight years old and sent to live with her aunt and uncle. Life is less than ideal with them and she finds solace in dancing. When she is older, Lily leaves her tiny hometown with all the bad memories, changes her name to Ruby Wilde, and moves to Las Vegas in the 1960’s where she tries to make it as a dancer but instead becomes a showgirl. I happened to see this book on a shelf at the library and the premise sounded interesting so I checked it out. Honestly, this book wasn’t for me. Lily’s childhood circumstances are very disturbing to read about at times. I was so happy for her when she finally left her hometown and I became pretty interested in the story with Ruby’s transformation and efforts to make it in Vegas; however, as her story continues, things spiraled downhill for me again and I stopped enjoying the book once more. I really don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling something in the plot. The middle third of this book was about the only part I really enjoyed reading, so overall this is not a book I recommend.  (TRIGGER WARNING: I think it’s important to note that if you do decide to read this book, there are some pretty difficult moments with sexual abuse and assault.)

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty

Ugh. I was SO disappointed by this book! I typically love Moriarty’s work but this one was a miss for me. The title makes it seem like it will be super dramatic and gripping but in reality, I felt like it was about 200 pages too long and went along at a snail’s pace. The story alternates between the perspectives of six different adults (three couples), some of whom are longtime friends and others mere acquaintances,  who were present at a barbecue where something happened . . . but you don’t find out what exactly happened for a l-o-n-g time. The chapters jump back and forth between the day of the barbecue and the present time to show the drastic difference in relationships then vs. now and how every character wishes the barbecue hadn’t happened. I think the intent was to build suspense and make you wonder what shocking thing could have possibly happened but it just made me feel impatient and disinterested. This story is not plot-driven so it hinges on character development and the reader connecting with and caring about the characters, and its redeeming qualities and bright spots just didn’t make up for the fact that I was mostly bored and just wanted it to be over. I recommend checking out one of Moriarty’s other works, Big Little Lies, The Husband’s Secret, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, instead.

It feels weird to end on such a dud of a book, but never fear, the September book review is only a week away and I have some fantastic reads to discuss! Stay tuned!