Happy September 1! Many people celebrate this day as the start of fall but I personally celebrate it as the start of birthday month. 🙂 And it’s also a great day for my monthly book review! After not being able to read very many books in June and July, I’ve been taking advantage of all the time sitting, snuggling, and breastfeeding my newborn to get more books in lately. In August, I read five books, including one brand new children’s book, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you. Let’s get started!
Mama, Sing My Song by Amanda Siebert
NEW BOOK ALERT!
I consider myself lucky to be part of the launch team for this book and to have received a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Mama Sing My Song is a company that writes personalized songs for children – I bought a personalized song for LJ two years ago and it blew me away! We still sing it to him regularly and I’m planning to order a song for Vi soon (and one day, Ollie will have one too!) This book is like a song written for all children and it is very sweet. It’s a Christian children’s book that reinforces how unique and special the child is and how they have purpose and are so very loved. It’s encouraging and uplifting and the illustrations are beautiful and whimsical. I can see this book being one I reach for again and again for bedtime stories! You can pre-order the book now and it’s set to be released on September 27th.
This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens
Minnie has had a lifetime of bad luck on her New Year’s Day birthday. From losing out by minutes on being the First Baby of 1990 (and the big cash prize that came with it) to getting locked in a bathroom all night during a NYE party, something disastrous always seems to happen and she blames one person for her misery: Quinn Hamilton, the man who beat her out for First Baby of 1990 and took her name along with it. When the two finally meet on their 30th birthday, Minnie is determined to hate him and the charmed life he has seemed to lead. But as they bump into one another more often and their lives start to overlap, she realizes maybe they’re not so totally different after all.
It took me a few chapters to warm up to Minnie – she was a little too woe is me, too obsessed with her luck, and too jaded against money/anyone rich at first. Once I warmed up to her, I enjoyed the rest of the book! I thought the setting was going to keep jumping forward New Years, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the timeline actually shifted between moving along in present day, and flashing back to previous New Years. It’s a little far-fetched at times but if you can allow for a bit of unreality, it’s sweet. I loved seeing the progression of Quinn and Minnie’s friendship and I appreciated the growth that each of them went through. I also felt like there were the perfect amount of side plots and secondary characters – just enough to keep things interesting and add to the plot but not too much that it got confusing or took away from the main storylines. I’d rank it as PG-13 for a bit of language (mostly from one side character) and one pretty brief make-out scene. While it’s centered around New Years and would make for a good read to cozy up with a blanket, it’s not so festive that it can’t be enjoyed year round. It’s a cute little read and I liked it!
If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins
Jenny Tate decides a change is necessary after her divorce, which was so weirdly amicable that she has stayed friends with both her ex-husband and his new wife, so she moves out of New York City to set up her wedding dress design shop in her hometown. This puts her closer to her mom and sister, Rachel, who leads an idyllic life with her handsome lawyer husband and their triplet (!) daughters. But things aren’t quite what they appear to be in each of the sister’s lives: Rachel’s perfect marriage is starting to fall apart and Jenny can’t seem to shake herself free from the hold her ex-husband has on her or figure out what the deal is with her charming and elusive downstairs neighbor. More than ever, these sisters are going to have to rely on one another and find their own inner strength to reach for the happiness they both crave in their lives.
This book has been on my list of top recommendations but I read it several years ago – long ago enough that I don’t have a book review on the blog and couldn’t actually remember much of the plot. After re-reading it this month, I’m not entirely sure why this made it onto my list of tip-top recommendations. There are redeeming qualities for sure and I certainly didn’t hate it, but I spent most of the book incredibly frustrated. I wanted to root for Jenny and Rachel, who are both likeable, relatable characters, but their inability to stand up for themselves in their respective situations for so long just made me angry. I think maybe I personally have changed since first reading – as a wife and now mother, there were certain aspects of the plot that I was just so bothered by. While the ending is mostly gratifying, it takes a really long time to get there and I’m not totally sure it’s entirely worth it. On the other hand, the author does a good job of depicting flawed, real humans and the complicated realities of life and relationships. The dynamic between the sisters felt really authentic to me; there is support and love and also they have to work through hurts and mistakes. There are pieces of the plot that break your heart and others that make you want to cheer. Overall, it’s a decent read, but I’ll be removing it from my top recommendations list, as it now feels more like a B+ level read.
With Love from London by Sarah Jio
Valentina Baker was only eleven years old when her mother, Eloise, abandoned Val and her father in Southern California and moved back to her native England, never to be seen or heard from again. Twenty-three years later, Val receives the news that Eloise has died and left her beloved bookstore to Val. Fresh out of her divorce and needing a new beginning, Val decides to travel to London and take over the bookstore, only to discover upon arrival that Eloise left her a scavenger hunt as well. Is it too late for Val to connect with and understand her mother and the choices she made in her life? As Val works through the scavenger hunt, she starts to fall in love with the neighborhood, the cozy flat, and the people who lived with and loved her mother and comes to realize that her mother’s life was much more complicated than she ever realized.
This book has a charming setting, a likeable cast of characters, and a little bit of mystery – all elements that I love in a book. Told in alternating past and present perspectives from Val and Eloise, it weaves together a story of love, loss, heartbreak, forgiveness, and family. I should have loved it, but I found myself only moderately interested because I kept having the feeling that I’d read it before – it felt like the combined pieces of several other books I have read. It seemed predictable to me but I think if I hadn’t read other similar stories (specifically, it felt a lot like How to Find Love in a Bookshop meets The Forgotten Room) I would have enjoyed it much more. I did also struggle with some of the more tragic elements of the plot; although it portrayed the missed chances that are often the case in real life, I think I was hoping for a little more feel-good escapism? Overall, I this this was a just-okay read for me but I don’t actually think it’s a bad book and would suggest giving it a try if small-town English bookstore vibes are what you’re craving.
Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
Single mom Nora Hamilton wrote a screenplay based on her divorce and now her home and beloved tea house out back have been taken over by lights, camera, and action as it’s now the set for the movie adaptation. After filming is finished and the crew leaves, she discovers one person has remained: the star of the movie and highest-paid actor in Hollywood, Leo Vance. Leo is in need of some time away and makes Nora a deal: he’ll pay $7000 to stay in her tea house for a week. To steal this from the book cover: “Seven days: it’s the blink of an eye or an eternity, depending on how you look at it. Enough time to fall in love. Enough time to break your heart.”
I’ve seen a lot of buzz about this book lately so I was very eager to check it out and it didn’t disappoint. I LOVED Nora and wish she was real because I want to be friends! I also loved Leo and how refreshing their dynamic and desire for simplicity in life was. It actually felt like a realistic romance between a 39-year-old mom of two and a 40-year-old Hollywood movie star. My biggest complaint with this book (and maybe this is a bit of a spoiler) is that the conflict takes up a lot of time. I felt similarly reading this as I did reading The No-Show – there was a point where I was like oh my goodness what do I even want to happen here? How is this going to be redeemable? And yet, when I finished, I realized I actually loved the book. I went back and re-read so many parts and I have to say, that part of the reading process was extra enjoyable. The overall vibe of the book reminded me of Evvie Drake Starts Over, so if you loved that book, I highly recommend this one (and conversely, if you hated it, you might not like this one either). I personally really enjoyed it and think it will make it to my top recommendations!
What have you been reading and enjoying lately?