August 2020 Book Reviews

It’s the last day of the month and that can only mean one thing: it’s book review day!

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This month I read six books and while there were a few I didn’t totally love, I enjoyed all six for different reasons. I’ve got some nonfiction memoirs, a long historical fiction saga, two rom coms (coincidentally both with protagonists working in the same industries), and a murder mystery whodunit. It was a fun mix of genres and topics and I’m excited to dive in!

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

A glamorous wedding on an obscure island off the coast of Ireland brings together a unique mix of people, including the bride, the plus-one, the bridesmaid, the wedding planner, and the best man. As the wedding festivities unfold, tensions rise and hidden secrets come to light. This alternating perspective whodunit was suspenseful and eerie without being creepy and I could not put it down! The thing about a book like this is that you know from the very beginning (even before you crack open the book, as the back cover mentions it) that a murder happens. But obviously, the author doesn’t want to give too much away too soon. So for the first third of the book, very little is revealed and each chapter ends with a bit of a cliffhanger/allusion to something but you don’t quite know what. It can be a little maddening, but it does make for a binge-worthy read. I just wanted to keep going to finally get a little breadcrumb of a clue. I did guess a few of the twists, some even pretty early on, but there were still some OH DANG moments for me as everything started to come to light. I felt very invested and I had to know who did the murderer was! The thing holding me back from this going on my all-star list is that I wasn’t altogether satisfied by the ending. I appreciated how most of it wrapped up, but there were a few things I wish had been a bit different. There needed to be one more chapter and a touch more resolution, but there are likely many readers who think the ending is perfect. Either way, I’d recommend this as a good binge-y whodunit!

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

But simply punishing the broken – walking away from them or hiding them from sight – only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity. (p. 290)

Whenever things got really bad, and they were questioning the value of their lives, I would remind them that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I told them that if someone tells a lie, that person is not just a liar. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you, you are not just a thief. Even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer. . . there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us. (p. 290)

Oh my. I have a hard time even putting this book into words. I had known that our criminal justice system has its issues, but this book really opened my eyes to a lot of the realities of its flaws and the many ways in which “justice” has ultimately failed so many people, particularly people of color and/or the poor. This nonfiction book tells the story of Bryan Stevenson’s life working as a lawyer representing those who are often overlooked by our criminal justice system: the poor, the wrongly accused, and those condemned on death row. A lot of the story focuses on one man in particular: Walter McMillan, who is on death row for a murder he is adamant that he did not commit. While Stevenson works to build a case for Walter, we also read many other stories of people who were sentenced for life for crimes committed as juveniles, people who are imprisoned after having virtually no good representation in their trial, or black people who were purposefully given all-white juries for their trials. It was truly heartbreaking to read the many times you think justice will prevail . . . and it doesn’t. Not every story has a happy ending. Not every wrong is made right. There is so much hurt, so much suffering, and so much that just doesn’t make sense. There were times it was really difficult to read. But there were also stories that gave me hope. There were triumphs and there were moments that restore your faith in humanity. It can be overwhelming to realize there is so much work to still be done, but ultimately this book left me feeling passionate and hopeful.  While this is by no means an easy read, I think it is such an important read and absolutely recommend it!

Open Book by Jessica Simpson

I think it’s okay every now and again to reflect on that time. Get down the box from the top shelf of the emotional closet and marvel at the things that used to mean so much. The keepsakes of our mistakes, the souvenirs of lost years. But know when to start making new memories with people who deserve the you that you are now. (p. 326)

I would never have claimed to be a big Jessica Simpson fan (although I love love love her show collection haha), but she was obviously a big part of pop culture in the 90’s and early 2000’s and I feel like I’ve grown up with her somewhat. I actually really enjoyed this memoir! It brought back a lot of nostalgia, and it was fun to read about things like the people she met trying out for the Mickey Mouse Club and her rise to fame with her music and Newlyweds . I was also fascinated to read all the things that were really going on beyond the things shown in magazines or on MTV; as always, there is more to the story than what meets the eye. While reading, I kept taking breaks to look up things on the internet – everything from her music videos to Newlywed clips or pictures she’s referencing. Jessica doesn’t shy away from the darker moments in her past and she opens up about abuse she’s suffered and unhealthy relationships she’s been in. While she does call out people (I wouldn’t want to be John Mayer’s publicist after this book came out), she also talks about the things she herself has done that she regrets and the mistakes she’s made. This book was fun, intriguing, vulnerable, and engrossing. I really enjoyed it and would recommend, even if you’re not really a Jessica Simpson fan.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

January and Gus are former college classmates turned bestselling authors who find themselves as neighbors in a small town in Michigan where they both are suffering from a bit of writer’s block. Though they aren’t exactly what you would call friends, they make a bet – write a book in the other person’s genre and see who can sell their book first. Through mini boot-camp trainings to educate one another on their genres, they get to know one another better and start to realize maybe they have more in common than a shared passion for writing.

I think my beef with this book is that the cover and the title feel misleading. Technically there is a beach, and there is a lot of reading involved, but the cover gives off a vibe that is not really at all what the book actually reads like. That aside, I thought the actual premise was cute and enjoyed this read. It took me a while to warm up to January but I loved broody and vulnerable Gus. I liked that the book dug into some meatier topics like marital affairs, abuse, rejection, life in a cult (see what I mean by the cover is misleading!?) and wasn’t just a feel-good, surface-level rom com. There were some parts of the story line that didn’t really interest me, but overall it was a nice enough light read to break up the heavier topics in the other books I read this month. I’d recommend it with the caveat that it falls pretty middle of the road for me – enjoyable, but not a standout.

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

I previously read Lilac Girls from this author and loved it, so I was excited to see this prequel to the book following the perspectives of three women, American socialite Eliza, Russian heiress Sofya, and Russian peasant Varinka as their lives intertwine around the time of WWI and the Russian Revolution. However, I’m finding this book review a little hard to write. I recognize that this is a a good book, but I’m not actually sure if I enjoyed it. Does that even make sense?

First of all, it’s over 400 pages and I just don’t think it needed to be that long. So many words, but really…did that much stuff happen? No. Secondly, I like having someone to root for but there were no clear heros. I had empathy for Sofya and the plight of the White Russians, but it was also frustrating to see their tremendous sense of entitlement and how little regard they had for the peasants’ suffering. I also had empathy for Varinka and all her suffering as a peasant, but she also did some pretty crappy things once she gained even a slight amount of power. And then Eliza’s story provided some American perspective, but her “America” seemed a little entitled and out of touch and her story felt superfluous to me. I think the book just needed less of her. All that being said, I also didn’t hate it. Ha!  Though it takes place during WWI it focuses more on what was specifically happening in Russia which I thought was interesting and I was invested in finding out the outcome for each woman (mostly Sofya and Varinka). I recognize that the author has written complex characters with vulnerabilities, redeeming qualities, and deep flaws. Overall, this falls in the mid-range for me. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, unsure if I’d recommend. If character-driven historical fiction is your thing, maybe give it a shot?

Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren

Dating You / Hating You by [Christina Lauren]

Evie and Carter meet up at a mutual friend’s party and the chemistry is instant. They’re both Hollywood agents and don’t typical date those in the industry, but in this case, it seems worth a try. That is until they show up to work one day and realize their companies have merged and they’re now vying for the same position. What was once a potential budding relationship is now filled with competition, zany attempts at sabotage, and maybe a little bit of that initial chemistry too? I read this book on my Kindle in about a day. It’s an easy read: it’s got some silliness, it’s got some steaminess, it’s got a fun cast of main and supporting characters. It’s got an interesting setting of the behind-the-scenes world of Hollywood. It kind of reminded me of movies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days; even though the plot lines are really different, the general chemistry + sabotage + chemistry dynamic was similar. Overall, I enjoyed this as a nice light read to round out the month.

I’m really excited about a few of the books I have lined up for September so hopefully I’ll have some more great reviews to report next month! What books are you excited to read?

July 2020 Book Reviews

Somehow, someway, this crazy year that is 2020 just keeps moving along and we’re onto another month and another book review!

I’ve been wanting to challenge myself with some harder, deeper books lately and this month I read some very compelling, meaningful books that I know will stick with me for a long, long time. Let’s dive in!

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How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

How to Be an Antiracist by [Ibram X. Kendi]

The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it – and then dismantle it.

I would have always said that I was “not racist.” I would have considered myself to be colorblind (“I don’t see color”). Reading this book gave me so much insight into that language though and I now realize that when I was “colorblind,” I really was just oblivious. I was ignorant. And while I may have been “not racist,” I was not actively antiracist. I read this book as part of a virtual book club and it is POWERFUL. It’s really hard for me to summarize because there is so much in this book worth mentioning. I am thankful that I bought my own copy because I was constantly underlining, starring, making notes. Kendi addresses racism in many different areas of society and how it affects everything from policy making to poverty to standardized testing to individual relationships and so much more. It touches on the history of race and racism both globally and in the United States and shines a light on how both systems and individuals play a part. There may be those that disagree with me, but I would say that this book mostly manages to stay apolitical. In addition to a tremendous amount of research noted in the back, Kendi uses examples, both good and bad, on both sides of the political spectrum and even takes a critical look at himself. He writes so vulnerably about the ways in which he has fallen short or needed to grow in his own journey to be antiracist and I feel like that makes it easier for the reader to look critically at him/herself. I had to take a lot of hard looks in the mirror as I read and I feel like this book stretched me and changed me in many ways. It gave me a new lens with which to view the world around me and identify areas for growth. Now for all my gushing, I will say that Kendi is one man. This is by no means the exclusive answer to all the problems within our society and there are many perspectives and platforms to consider. Even so, this is such a valuable resource and I absolutely recommend it to everyone as an incredibly important opportunity to read, reflect, and grow. It is challenging but ultimately I found it to be inspiring and hopeful. I think it is an excellent candidate for book club discussions, or even just reading with a friend to process together. Highly, highly recommend.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Emira, a young black woman, is accused of kidnapping the girl she babysits while the two of them are in a grocery store. The entire confrontation, made by a white grocery shopper and the white security guard, is filmed and the story eventually gets back to Emira’s employer, Alix. Mortified by the situation, Alix tries to rectify the situation by befriending Emira – but is that really her place? And is she handling things as well as she thinks she is?

At first the style of writing felt disjointed to me, and it took me a while to establish a feel for it and get into the story, but once I did, I was hooked. I read this entire book in less than 24 hours! It was especially interesting to read this on the heels of How to Be An Antiracist – that book really did open my eyes to the ways in which so many well-intended “not-racist” behaviors are actually racist. Such a Fun Age was like a case study for exploring the dynamics of race, class, and privilege within relationships, both romantic and professional. The characters’ intentions didn’t always match the outcomes of their actions and it demonstrated the nuances in interactions and how things are rarely just black and white (no pun intended). When I tried coming up with a few adjectives for this book, intriguing, provocative, and engrossing immediately came to mind. I’m not sure if I would have felt this way had I not just read How to Be An Antiracist, (in fact, I know I would’ve viewed some of the interactions and characters differently beforehand!) so I would actually recommend reading both books if you can. But even if you can’t, this book is well worth a read. I think it would be an excellent candidate for a book club discussion on racial inequality and the white savior complex.

One in a Million by Lindsey Kelk

One in a Million: Heartwarming and uplifting, the perfect feelgood, funny romantic read by [Lindsey Kelk]

After several books on the heavier side, I was in the mood for something light and easy and this book seemed like just the thing. In an effort to save her small social media marketing business, Annie accepts a bet: a free month’s rent if she can make a total stranger Instagram famous in 30 days. The only problem is, the chosen target is Dr. Samuel Page, a dry historian with an overgrown beard, a flip phone, and absolutely no interest in social media. Annie is determined to win the bet, so she makes a deal with Sam. Allow her to open the Instagram account, and she will help him win his girlfriend back. Except it isn’t long before Annie realizes she doesn’t want Sam to win back his girlfriend…

I wanted so badly to like this little rom-com, but gosh I just did not. Honestly, I was bored! The pace is so slow and it is really long – I read it on my Kindle and remember looking for my percentage thinking “surely things are going to pick up soon” and I was shocked to see I wasn’t even 25% of the way through the book and it felt like nothing had happened. I also could not really get into the characters or understand Annie and Sam’s dynamic or growing relationship (and I wouldn’t even say that’s a spoiler, because this book is super obviously predictable). I think it was supposed to be endearing and sweet but I can’t really say there was ever a point where I felt super invested or interested in them. There were way too many underdeveloped side characters and stories (one side story seemed like it was going to be more of a thing which would have been interesting but then it just…wasn’t). As a whole, this book was fine if you want a feel-good, somewhat mindless beach read, but I found it to be pretty underwhelming and forgettable.

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

Charles and James, two men from very different backgrounds, feel the same call to preaching and end up as co-pastors at a Presbyterian church in New York City in the 1960’s. Their wives come with them, although it soon becomes apparent that they could not be more different. Still, the foursome have a unique bond and navigate the ups and downs of their relationships and faith journeys over the years.

This book was recommended to me by a friend and I dove in without really knowing what to expect. While the book does technically cover multiple decades, it really focuses on their lives in college as Charles and James meet Lily and Nan and are led to divinity school and then the early years of their ministry. This is definitely a slow burn, character-driven story so don’t expect a fast paced plot, but it is really well written and ends up being very thought-provoking. I am a Christian and found it fascinating to think about what faith looks like to different people – how they think about God, how they feel in their callings, how they cope with suffering. I do not think you have to be religious to appreciate this book. There also ended up being a pretty large part of the plot that I didn’t see coming but was super interested in given a specific part of my background (I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoiling things). I felt like I could relate to each character in a unique way and felt drawn to them all for different reasons. This novel is compelling and moving and rich – definitely recommend.

 

Whew! What a month, huh? I know I’m going to continue processing many of these books for a while. At the same time, I currently have NINE books stacked up on my nightstand waiting to be read so I’m going to be processing these and taking in some more in August. 🙂 What have you been reading lately?

May 2020 Book Reviews

Before I share today’s post, I want to share a little bit of my heart. There are many things going on in the world right now, specifically with the Black Lives Matter movement. I took last week off from posting on my blog and social media except to share resources that I found to be insightful and helpful to me personally. It was not the time for my own experiences or voice, it was the time to listen to the voices of others (I have saved it all to a highlight on my Instagram profile). I have done so much listening and reflecting and it was an eye-opening week for me to realize the many ways in which I have fallen short in incorporating Black voices into my life. Justin and I have had many conversations about how we are going to do better as individuals and as parents to be actively anti-racist. I wanted to share this because even though I’m going to resume posting about my own life, I am committed to continuing this much needed work because Black Lives absolutely Matter. ❤

When it comes to volume of reading material, May was one for the books (see what I did there? 😉 ) Thanks to the pandemic keeping me at home, unexpected delays in our basement kitchen renovation giving me more free time, a few long weekends at home, and our library keeping me supplied with ebooks for my Kindle, I read a lot of books. TWELVE to be exact! What! This is obviously much more than my typical number and this review will be a long one so let’s not waste anymore time and get right to it, shall we?

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Hope’s Crossing (Books 1-7) by RaeAnne Thayne

Hope's Crossing Collection Volume 1: An Anthology by [RaeAnne Thayne]

Back in December, I flew through this author’s Haven Point books and I would describe this as the sister series. These are very Hallmark-style romance books: quick and easy to read (I binged the series in a long weekend over Mother’s Day), no language or steamy scenes, predictable and maybe a smidge cheesy yet still romantic and sweet. These books all take place in a small Colorado town called Hope’s Crossing. I enjoy story arcs where each character has his/her own story but the stories overlap and all the characters throughout the books are connected. It just makes me feel connected to the people in this charming little town. I wanted to join the activities, eat at the Center of Hope cafe, check out the quaint bookstore, etc. I will say, I wish I had read this series first, because it was written first and some of these characters are referenced in the Haven Point series (there is crossover in several books which is fun!) but you definitely don’t have to. I think I liked the Haven Point series a little better and the writing is a little more developed but this was perfect for when I was craving some sweet, fun, lighthearted reads.

I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan

I'm Fine and Neither Are You by [Camille Pagán]

Penelope is a do-it-all mom: she is constantly juggling her job, her kids, her husband, and about a million other things. Her life seems like barely controlled chaos, especially in comparison to her best friend Jenny’s idyllic marriage, motherhood, and life. That is, until Jenny is shockingly found dead in her home and Penelope realizes her life wasn’t so perfect after all. In an effort to turn around her life and marriage, Penelope and her husband decide to make a change: they are going to make wish lists for ways they need their relationship to improve. Total honesty is the best policy…right?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t love the first part of the book. The overwhelmed, overworked martyr mom is not a story line I love and I was kind of annoyed by Penny and her woe-is-me. As I continued to read though, I started to really appreciate her character development and the whole story became more enjoyable. I genuinely wanted her and Sanjay to figure things out and succeed (side note: Sanjay eventually endeared himself to me with his requests/wishes and his own personal development). I expected a more nefarious subplot, but the book is mostly focused on Penelope’s personal growth and the way that her marriage has evolved over time. I thought it was an interesting look at the highs and lows of marriage and it gave me quite a bit to think about regarding finding balance, communicating honestly (within your marriage and also with your friends, online, etc) and prioritizing yourself as well as those you love. Overall, I enjoyed this read!

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

Meet Cute by [Helena Hunting]

Kailyn is a trust lawyer assigned to help serve as conservator for an orphaned thirteen year old girl in the middle of a custody battle. The only problem is the current guardian in question is the girl’s older brother Daxton Hughes, a former child actor Kailyn went to law school with and fangirled over like crazy . . . until he betrayed her. Now she has to put aside her past hurts to make sure his sister Emme is taken care of. As Kailyn and Dax work together and get to know one another again, they realize there is a lot more to each other than they knew. This book was just the right sort of flirty, fun read that I was in the mood for. The characters are likable and easy to root for. There is just a little bit of mystery with the custody battle, but it’s not super shocking or suspenseful and the majority of the book focuses more on the dynamics between Kailyn and Dax. I did think the fact that Kailyn seemed obsessed with Dax’s show was a little extreme and a weird part of their dynamic but other than that, I liked their chemistry as they worked together to help take care of Emme (whom I also loved!) Fair warning, the book does have a decent amount of language and steam, but I thought it was an enjoyable rom-com!

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Mother-in-Law: A Novel by [Sally Hepworth]

After losing her own mother, Lucy had high hopes for her future mother-in-law and craves closeness with a warm, inviting motherly figure. Unfortunately for her, Diana is not what she hoped for. Their relationship is strained at best until one day, Diana is found dead in what looks to be a potential suicide. Except, some things just aren’t adding up and everyone in the family, including Lucy, has secrets. I loved this book! I expected it to be a thriller, but it was actually more of a character-driven, slow burn family drama + whodunit. The narrators and timelines switch multiple times and we see Lucy and Diana’s perspectives over the years. It is such a fascinating look at relationships and how actions and events can be interpreted two totally different ways if you don’t know the other person’s motives, thoughts, and feelings. There were multiple times that I just wanted to shake the characters and insist they talk to one another – there were so many missteps and miscommunications that could have been avoided over the years with a few honest conversations. It made me sad for the relationships that could have been, and it also made me think about the relationships I have in my own life and how important communication is. I found this to be an intriguing read and I flew through it!

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by [Christina Lauren]

A few months ago I read The Unhoneymooners from this author duo (it’s two women, Christina and Lauren) and loved it so I was excited to try another one from them. After they reconnect 10 years after initially meeting in college, Hazel finally has her chance to make Josh her best friend. Despite their differences in personality (Josh is easygoing, calm, neat, and steady while Hazel is quirky, messy, constantly in motion, and a bit of a hot mess with no filter), they do become close friends as they get to know one another. They start to set one another up on double blind dates that never seem to work out – could that be because they actually would rather be with one another?

The premise was fun, the pacing worked well, and the characters were unique and interesting, but I just felt so overwhelmed by Hazel. I feel guilty even just saying that because she is still a likable character and I know the whole point was supposed to be that she is super quirky and different and Josh accepts her just as she is, but it just felt over the top sometimes. Honestly, maybe that was the point the authors were trying to make – she’s tough to love wholeheartedly, but the right person will. 😉 I also didn’t love the ending; it felt rushed and weirdly crammed a lot of things in. Overall, it’s not going to make my rom-com Hall of Fame and I definitely prefer The Unhoneymooners, but this was still an enjoyable read.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

“In rape cases it’s strange to me when people say, Well why didn’t you fight him? If you woke up to a robber in your home, saw him taking your stuff, people wouldn’t ask, Well, why didn’t you fight him? Why didn’t you tell him no? He’s already violating an unspoken rule, why would he suddenly choose to adhere to reason? What would give you reason to think he’d stop if you told him to?”

Oh my. This was a powerful read. I remember hearing about the Brock Turner case several years ago, but I admittedly did not follow the court case closely in the news over the months and years before the verdict was reached and sentencing given. This vulnerable memoir written by Chanel, previously known in the media as assault survivor Emily Doe, was incredibly eye-opening. Not only does she give insight into so much of her own life, but she gives the reader an intimate look at the way rape victims are treated and how their court cases unfold. This is not a light read. It is heartbreaking, frustrating, and heavy. It was hard to not only see how this particular case was handled, but also to see how victims are treated in other situations in our society (she references our current administration and the Kavanaugh hearing). Even so, the book is poignant and ultimately uplifting – despite Turner’s lenient sentencing and our sense of lost justice, there was a lot of change and hope that came from this situation and specifically her victim statement (I cried!) and I commend her for sharing her story this way. Though the subject matter is difficult, her storytelling is compelling and I could not put this book down. It is an important read and I highly recommend.

You have to hold out to see how your life unfolds, because it is most likely beyond what you can imagine. It is not a question of if you will survive this, but what beautiful things await you when you do.

 

Whew! I’m definitely not going to keep up that pace of reading, but I do plan to get quite a bit of reading done over the summer. I would love to incorporate more great books written specifically by Black authors, so if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

April 2020 Book Reviews

For as never-ending as March felt, April seemed to fly by! I stayed busy with lots of home projects, but I was also able to read a few books this month and I’m excited to share them with you today because I ENJOYED THEM ALL!

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That’s right, this was a month of winners! Let’s dive in. 🙂

The Murmer of Bees by Sofia Segovia

The Murmur of Bees by [Sofía Segovia, Simon Bruni]

An abandoned baby with a disfigured face covered in bees is discovered under a bridge and taken in by the Morales family. It isn’t long before they realize the baby, Simonoprio, is special and will alter the course of their family history. This revolving point of view story follows the family over generations in their small town in Mexico and explores how their lives are affected by the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Flu Pandemic. This book is a unique mix of  historical fiction and fantasy – it’s both realistic and magical. It was beautifully written and I came to love the cast of characters. I love reading books that talk about historical events I don’t know much about, and this was no exception. It was especially to read about the 1918 pandemic while I’m living through an actual pandemic myself. That being said, I read this on my kindle and was shocked one day when my home screen informed me that I was only 25% done with the book, even though I had already spent hours reading. Turns out, this book is 476 pages long. What! I did like that the chapters were very short (there are 100!) but it still felt really tedious to get through at times. The narrator also changes with every chapter and it was sometimes hard to determine who was talking and keep all the characters straight, especially in the beginning.

I enjoyed this book and still consider it an overall “win”, but the length (and pace at times) did take away some of my enthusiasm for it. If you’re in the mood for a slow build, character-driven, historical fiction family saga with some mystical elements, this is your book!

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Two neighboring families are familiar with one another but not overly friendly, with the exception of their children Peter and Kate, who develop a close friendship growing up. Right when their relationship looks like it could be more than friendship, a tragic event affecting both families alters the trajectory of their lives. Wow. This book doesn’t shy away from going deep, circling issues of mental health, trauma, addiction, betrayal, forgiveness, and how our past affects our future, even when we try our best not to repeat history. The author did an absolutely brilliant job of developing real, complex characters and I found myself so invested in everyone, particularly Peter and Kate. The book spans several decades but the author does an excellent job of keeping the story moving – there are times where it feels like you’re watching a 3 minute movie montage that sums up several years in a few important scenes, yet is surprisingly easy to follow and I didn’t feel like we skipped over chunks of time. I actually really enjoyed this way of storytelling!  It is a poignant, raw, super compelling story and I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend!

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

The Authenticity Project: A Novel by [Clare Pooley]

A green notebook is discovered in a small cafe, and when the cafe owner opens it in hopes of returning it to the owner, she discovers that it was actually intended as a sort of social experiment. The notebook’s owner had written his story without filter or alteration and he challenges the person who finds his book to do the same and pass it on. This call to be authentic inspires the cafe owner, Monica, to write her vulnerable truth and leave the book for someone else to find. Soon, the book has traveled around the world and back, bringing together an eclectic group of six individuals in ways none of them could have anticipated.

I saw this book on the shelf as I was heading to check out at the library and grabbed it on impulse without much expectation. It was such a delightful surprise! It’s quirky, fun, engaging, and lighthearted gem of a book that carries unexpected depth as well. I absolutely flew through it and didn’t want it to end. The characters are all interesting and lovable and I came to care about every single one of them. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel like they are your friends; I was ready to fly to London and pop into Monica’s cafe to join in a meal with everyone. This is the perfect choice for when you want a beach read but with a little depth and I highly recommend it!

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Spanning the 1950’s Cold War era, this book takes the unique narrative of not only alternating points of view, but also alternating geographical regions. In the East, we hear from Olga, the mistress and muse of write Boris Pasternak who is sent to a labor camp for refusing to divulge information about his work.  In the West, we hear from Irina and Sally, two very different women both being used by the CIA to covertly obtain and distribute Pasternak’s masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago, back into the Soviet UnionThere are also chapters narrated by other characters, sometimes even a collective group of typists with an ambiguous narrator, and it’s a fascinating, addicting read. It gave me vibes of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo meets The Golden Hour with a splash of The Alice Network and Winter Garden. It felt familiar, yet unique in its own way. As I said earlier, I love reading historical fiction based on people, places, and events I don’t know much about; I knew very little about life behind the Iron Curtain and I found myself constantly putting down the book to quickly Google one of the characters or events mentioned to learn a little more.

The first 2/3 of the book was fantastic, but I have to say that the last 1/3 tapered off for me. I was still enjoying the book, but I found myself skimming a little more and not being quite as interested. I’m not sure why? I think the plot slowed down, which was disappointing and even a bit boring at times? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me? If you’ve read this book, I’d love to know if you felt the same way! Overall, I thought this book was really good (can’t believe it’s a debut novel!) and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a compelling work of biographical fiction.

 

And that’s a wrap on a great month of reading. I’m hoping that our library opens back up in May, because I’m really anxious to get some of the books I’m on the wait list for. Fingers crossed!

Book Hangovers

This weekend was cold with a wintry mix of snow, rain, sleet, which means it was the perfect weather for staying inside curled up with a blanket and book. So that’s just what I did!

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I read A Woman is No Man over the course of the weekend. Last night, I finished the book while drinking a glass of wine and this morning, I have a hangover.

A book hangover.

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Does this ever happen to you? I feel like it happens to me a lot. Sometimes, I have a book hangover because I was so invested in the world the author created that I felt like I was living in it and I have a hard time accepting that it isn’t real (I’m talking to you, Harry Potter). Sometimes, I have a book hangover because I love the characters so much and I’m deeply affected by how their story turned out, whether because I’m so happy for them or so deeply heartbroken that their story could’ve been different. I often have book hangovers when there is one thing that could’ve been changed in a story that would have made the ending totally different (if only she had known the truth! If only he had delivered the package! If only the stranger would have shown up one day later! etc, etc, etc). Other times, the story was so thought-provoking that I’m analyzing/processing/digesting for days afterwards. Books like It Ends with Us, One True Loves, Before We Were Yours, and basically anything by Kate Morton – these books have given me some of the longest book hangovers. Some of them still haunt me.

I’m not sure this book is in that same league, but it is one that I’m going to have to process for a while. I’m not even sure where to begin. It made me grateful.  It made me frustrated. It made me both hopeful and deeply sad. It made me think about many things. I’m going to wait until my February book review blog post to give my full thoughts on it, but I had to share these initial impressions in today’s blog post. For one thing, the fact that I spent my time reading this weekend meant I didn’t have time to write my planned blog post for today (ha!). For another, this book is on my mind and I’m not sure I could’ve focused on writing anything else right now. I went to bed thinking about it, I woke up thinking about it. I looked at my large TBR stack of books on my nightstand and thought “nope, not ready to look at any of you right now!”

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to pick up another book, but for today, I’m going to stay hungover.

Have you read any books that made you feel this way? What were they?

December 2019 Book Reviews

Happy 2020!

I’m so excited that my first post of the decade is a monthly book review. These are my favorite posts to write so it seems like the perfect way to start of another year on the blog.

In terms of reading, 2019 went out with a bang. I read twelve books in December. You read that right – TWELVE! Most of those books happened in the cozy time between Christmas and New Years; life seems to slow down in that period of time and it allows for lots of time to read while cozied up by the Christmas tree. It’s just the best!

I loved 11 out of 12 of the books I read and I’m excited to share them so let’s get started!

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Lucy and Joshua are coworkers and enemies who spend their days playing hate-fueled games at their competitive jobs. One day, a new promotion is announced and tension increases as they’re both vying for it. As things escalate, they actually get to know one another a little better and realize perhaps they don’t hate each other as much as they thought they did. I really enjoyed this book! There weren’t really any  unexpected twists and turns, it was just good old fashioned chick lit fun. I enjoyed the characters, thought the storyline was fun and interesting, and was invested in watching Lucy and Josh’s relationship develop. I will say, it has some pretty rated-R scenes and language, so heads up if you try to avoid that.

The Other’s Gold by Elizabeth Ames

This book follows four girls who are strangers to one another when they are assigned as roommates in their freshman year at college but quickly become best friends. The book is broken up into four chronological sections from college all the way to motherhood and describes how their relationships with one another grow and are tested as each girl makes her biggest mistake. While it was intriguing to see how the other girls reacted to one another’s mistakes, I found that I didn’t really love the story because I didn’t really love or connect with the characters. We’ve all done things we regret terribly, and I think I would have liked this book more if I liked the characters more or understood what made their friendship so everlasting despite huge differences? I’m not sure. Also, when a book is centered around things people do that they regret or that alter lives, you see the underbelly of human motivations. Seeing what led each girl to her mistake often left me feeling sad (or even icky) but I think that is actually an indication that the author did a great job exploring why and how we are led to make mistakes. Overall, I finished the book and felt just so-so about it.

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

This book reminded me of The Golden Hour because it follows completely fictional main characters that have interactions with a character that actually did exist in real life. In this case, we meet two characters, perfumer Sophie and press photographer James who are brought together by none other than Grace Kelly. Unlike the Golden Hour, I actually felt like the famous person and the events from history played a big part in the plot. One day, Sophie is running her little perfume shop in Cannes, France when Grace Kelly unexpectedly ducks inside to escape being photographed by James. Sophie hides Grace, but meets James in the process. Their brief encounter sets the wheels in motion on a chain of events that will eventually connect all three characters as they prepare for the wedding of the century where Grace is to become Princess of Monaco. This is the type of historical fiction I love best and I found this book to be a delightful read. I was charmed by Grace (and spent tons of time on Wikipedia afterwards learning more about her) and fell in love with James and Sophie. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that I wish the authors had chosen to do something different with one aspect towards the end. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to my fellow historical fiction lovers.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

I received a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas and as Justin and I traveled to Virginia to spend time with his family I got to put it to use. This book has been on my To Be Read list for a long time so I was excited to dive in.

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This thriller follows Amber, a woman fueled by her poor upbringing and desire for money and power, and her quest to befriend/manipulate beautiful socialite Daphne and insert herself into Daphne’s world. I’m not going to lie, the first part of the book was frustrating to read and I had a hard time enjoying it BUT then about halfway through things shifted and it became addictive. I was completely fascinated and flew through the rest of the book. Now, without spoiling anything, I will say that this book had some very similar elements to another book I have previously read. Because of that, there were a few things that were meant to be shocking that I already suspected thanks to to the other book. I wish I hadn’t read the other one first because I actually liked this book SO much more and think it would have been even better with the element of surprise. Even so, I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend!

Haven Point Series (Books 1-8) by RaeAnne Thayne

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I’ve been following Megan’s bookstagram (an instagram account devoted to books and reading!) lately and have discovered that she and I have similar reading tastes. So when she raved big time about this book series, I knew I had to check it out. Guys. This is the perfect lighthearted reading! It’s like reading a Hallmark movie in book form. Sweet, fun, romantic (but not rated-R *steamy* if ya know what I mean 😉 ) and enjoyable! I got through EIGHT books in the 10-book series (they are all super quick, easy reads that I can finish in a day). While I do have my favorites, I liked them all! I’m not going to recap each book, but just the series in general. The books are all centered in a fictional town of Haven Point, Idaho and they alternate between happening at Christmas time or in the summer (book 1 at Christmas, book 2 in summer, book 3 in Christmas, so on so forth…). First of all, it’s a good thing that Haven Point is fictional or I’d be packing up my family and moving to Idaho. The town sounds adorable! And each book centers around two residents of the town and their journey towards love. Each book can stand alone, but it’s fun to read them in order because you see snippets of all the characters throughout one another’s books (so you read how characters A and B fell in love in one book, then in a future book that centers around characters C and D, one chapter may include C and D at the wedding of A and B. Or you meet one character in book one, and even though her love story doesn’t happen until book 8, you see a little of her backstory so by the time you start “her” book, you feel like you know her a bit. Does that make sense?) I’m honestly so glad I found this series when I did because it was absolutely perfect to read snuggled up by a Christmas tree. I still have a few more books in this series to read (and then there’s a sister series called Hope’s Crossing that also has some character crossover) so safe to say I have a lot of RaeAnne Thayne in my future when I’m craving some lighthearted love. If you cringe at the thought of a Hallmark Christmas movie, this series probably isn’t for you. But if you enjoy them, I recommend checking this out!

Whew! What a way to end the year, huh? I have lots of books already on my TBR list for 2020 (and one of my 20 for 2020 goals is to read 60 total books) so here’s to another great year of reading!

What’s on your “must read” list this year?

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!

June 2019 Book Reviews

Good morning!

I can’t believe another month has come and gone. How is it already July!? Summer is absolutely flying by and I have mixed feelings about it. One the one hand, we get to meet baby at the end of summer! On the other hand, I don’t want to wish away any of this amazing warm weather. This week Justin, LJ, and I are vacationing with Justin’s family in Virginia so I’m just going to post my book reviews and get back to enjoying our week!

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All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

The premise of this book was very intriguing to me: ten years ago, a girl went missing in a small town in North Carolina and she was never found. In present day, another girl goes missing and all the same suspects from ten years ago are still around. The story takes place over the course of two weeks, but the kicker is: it is told in reverse. We start at Day 15 and work backwards to Day 1.  I think I liked the concept of reverse story-telling better in theory than in reality. Typically, as things are revealed to characters, they are also revealed to readers; in this scenario, I knew that there was a lot of information that the characters obviously knew on Day 15 that was being withheld. It actually ended up making the first half of the story seem very slow and a little confusing. Around Day 7, I felt like more and more relevant information was being revealed and my interest level grew, although there were things that happened in “earlier” days that almost confused me further because nothing in the “later” days hinted that they had happened. It just wasn’t really my kind of storytelling, and I ended the book feeling like I needed to reread the story to really understand all the things I missed (but I honestly just didn’t even care enough to do that this time). That being said, there were some twists and turns that I did not at all see coming, so if you like unique storytelling you might want to give this one a shot.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

The Forgotten Room by [White, Karen, Williams, Beatriz, Willig, Lauren]

I love Beatriz Williams and have re-capped several of her books before, so I was excited to learn that she had co-authored a book with two other authors. This story centers around the Pratt Mansion, a glamorous house built in Manhattan in the late 1800’s and follows three women and their experiences in the house throughout history. In particular, each woman has unique encounters in a very special and mostly unknown attic room. So what was interesting about this story is that through the alternating stories of Olive (1890’s), Lucy (1920’s), and Kate (1940’s), you almost immediately start to form conclusions about how these women are connected. Even though their connections to one another weren’t very surprising, there were aspects of what exactly happened to each woman and her relationships and connections (with men in particular) that kept me guessing until the end. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as a great historical fiction but I will say that it left me a little heartbroken. These characters all became so real to me and I knew that they couldn’t all necessarily have happy endings; the story I connected with the most was not one that ended how I hoped. Nevertheless, I did really like the book and would recommend it to my fellow historical fiction lovers!

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

A man is found dead in the middle of nowhere in the Australian Outback. No one knows how he ended up stranded in the unforgiving, and ultimately deadly, heat with no shelter except a small gravestone. There are virtually no clues and only a bunch of questions. As his family tries to process his death and find an explanation, we find that things aren’t always as they initially appear. I took this book along with me on our Bahamian Babymoon, but since I dove into The Clockmaker’s Daughter first, Justin ended up reading it before I did. I thought it’d be fun to have him share his take on it before I give my thoughts. So here he is with his blogging debut! 😉

“Overall The Lost Man was a fun vacation read for me.  It kept me wanting more because the story began with little to no background and the death was revealed very early with again, little to no information or leads.  The author is apparently, so Sarah tells me, known for incorporating the environment/mother nature as a key element in her stories.  As someone who has never personally experienced the Australian Outback, I found her details quite exciting.  Anyway, as the story goes on, you are given more and more present time clues as well as important historical information about the atypical family and their atypical relationships. The book had a good pace and unlike a lot of other reads does not wait until the last 20 pages to drop bombs of the most exciting of details. Of course it has its ending that you wouldn’t have expected, but it wouldn’t have been a publishable story without that…am I right?  Thanks for having me on your blog today Sarah.  I’m sure this is just a one hit wonder type deal (or more like one and done, no hit or wonder about this…)”

Ha! Thanks babe! I honestly don’t have much to add. As with her other novels, Harper uses the environment like an actual character. It made me want to constantly have water next to me while reading because the hot, dry landscape just seemed so real and so very desolate. Throughout the story I formed a bunch of different thoughts about what happened, but I was still very surprised by the ending of the story. I was hooked from start to finish!

It’s Always the Husband by Michelle Campbell

I saw this book for sale in Costco several months ago and, after reading the synopsis inside, made a mental note to add it to my reading list. I recently saw it pop up on another blog’s book review and it inspired me to finally snag a copy from the library. IN this story three girls meet as roommates in college and become best friends/frenemies with complicated relationships. Twenty years later, one of them ends up dead under strange circumstances and their love/hate relationships with one another through the years may or may not have played a part in this death. I’ll be honest, this book was kind of disappointing for me. It had elements of psychological thriller, mystery, murder – all things that I normally am interested in reading about and I wanted to love it. I think my disappointment came down to one major hitch: I hated all the characters. To her credit, Campbell wrote each of the characters to be complex individuals with redeeming qualities and serious flaws. I just didn’t connect with or particularly like any of them. And without at least one person to root for, I kind of just wanted the book to be over.  I kept at it though because the actual death did intrigue me and I wanted to know whodunit – the last 20 pages were honestly my favorite. This book kept me guessing until the very end! So overall, I’d peg it as a middle-of-the-road murder mystery.

What have you been reading lately?

May 2019 Book Reviews

It’s book review day! Whoo hoo!

Because May was so chaotic with selling our house, packing, moving, and traveling, I only got through three books this month but I feel like that’s pretty good all things considered. Plus I had a good mix of genres so overall I was happy with this month’s choices. Let’s get to it, shall we?

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The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

Kate Morton is my all-time favorite author so I saved this book for a vacation read and took it along with me to the Bahamas. The plot all centers around a unique house in the English countryside that captivates everyone who encounters it. We follow along with several different characters and their experiences in and around the house from summer 1862, where a mysterious murder takes place, to 2017 London, where an archivist stumbles across some items linked to the house and that very summer. There are several characters and major events happening in between the two time periods and we jump back and forth between perspectives and see how some stories even overlap.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Kate Morton is my favorite. She writes historical fiction in an absolutely mesmerizing way and each book always hooks me in and then blows me away with reveals I never saw coming. There is always a moment where I’m reading and have a “OH MY GOSH” moment that forces me to go back and reread. Justin even joked after I finished this book that I was doing the “classic Sarah re-read” because about 20 minutes after finishing the book and processing the ending, I had to go back and start at the beginning and flip through to piece together things I missed the first time around. Have I sold her enough? I love, love LOVE Kate Morton. That being said, this book left me feeling unsettled. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just say that I was really hoping for a little more with the way everything got wrapped up and was loving the book until the last 40 or so pages (and the book clocks in at just under 500 pages, so that was a lot of enjoyable reading). It’s always disappointing to love a book and then be let down by the ending but I still remain loyal to Kate Morton and even still recommend this book because her writing is just so spellbinding. Just maybe use your imagination and change the ending a bit, or read one of her other books such as The Lake House or The Secret Keeper!

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Saints for All Occasions

I’ve read a couple others books by this author in the past (my favorite was probably The Engagements) and when I saw this on another recommendation list I added it to my stack. This book follows two Irish Catholic sisters, Nora and Theresa, who immigrate to the United States from Ireland in the 1950s. While they initially have a very close bond, circumstances happen and choices are made that ultimately affect their relationship and lives. The plot is broken up into a few different time frames, beginning with their travels from Ireland to the US and ending in 2009, where Theresa now lives as a nun and Nora has four grown children. To be honest, after about 70 pages, I was pretty bored and wanted to quit. I pushed through a little bit longer and I’m glad I did, as the book picked up once it jumped to the present time frame and introduced Nora’s children. I enjoyed how the author wove together each story and unique perspective and while there were really no shocking plot twists, there were enough things happening to keep me engaged the rest of the way through.  I will say that while there was some closure at the end of the book, I wanted more. I finished it with a slightly dissatisfied feeling and wish there had been one more chapter at the end. Overall, this book fell in the “okay” range for me: not highly recommended but a solid read.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

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I’ve tried to incorporate a little more nonfiction into my life and I really enjoyed this memoir (thankfully, because I was on the wait list for a long time). Every single life on this earth looks different and as a white girl raised on a farm in rural Ohio, it was fascinating to me to read about the experiences of someone whose childhood looked starkly different. I gained a lot of respect and admiration for Michelle and all she has accomplished in her lifetime so far. As for the political aspect, I do not engage in political discussions online but will say this: I enjoyed this book purely as a compelling look at the intricacies of one woman’s life. Politics is obviously a huge part of her life, but I felt like she spoke of all her experiences in an honest, relatable way.  The book is a pretty long and hefty read but I was interested and it kept my attention the whole way through! If you enjoy memoirs I definitely recommend adding this one to your list.

I feel like now that we’re really digging into summer, I need some great summer recommendations to add to my reading list. Let me know if you have any good ones!

 

February 2019 Book Review

Today it’s time for one of my favorite posts each month: book review day!

I’m reviewing three books this month even though only two are pictured because the third book I read while on vacation in Florida. Overall, I enjoyed all three books so I’m excited to dive on in to the reviews!

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The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

You know the game “if you could have dinner with any five people, dead or alive, who would you choose?” Well this book is a story of that actually happening. Sabrina thinks she is going to her birthday dinner with her longtime friend but when she shows up, it turns out the rest of her “list” of people are there too even though some of them are dead (oh hi, Audrey Hepburn). The plot jumps between the actual dinner and various times in Sabrina’s past that explain her connections to each person and why they are on her list. I was pretty intrigued by the premise and since this is the book I took on vacation to Florida, I flew through it in the hotel during LJ’s naps. There were sweet parts, surprising parts, sad parts, and downright shocking parts. While I did enjoy this book, to be honest, I got frustrated a few times due to some of the dynamics between the main characters. The more I thought about it though, I think that’s pretty indicative of life, right? Sometimes people are amazing, sometimes they are jerks. We all have our moments of triumph and weakness. This book gave me a lot to think about – it’s one that I can’t discuss too much more here for fear of spoilers, but I would love to discuss in person with someone who has read it because I have a lot of thoughts I’d like to work through!

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Since I finished The Dinner List so quickly and still had a lot of vacation downtime left, I borrowed this book from my friend Kaitlin’s bookshelf to read poolside while in Florida. Christopher is a bright 15-year-old boy and though the book never explicitly states this, it’s pretty obvious that he has autism. One night he is walking through his neighborhood and discovers that his neighbor’s dog Wellington has been killed in her yard. He decides to become a detective and figure out who killed Wellington and his search leads him to a trail of discoveries and adventures. I loved that the whole story was told through Christopher’s point of view, which I felt the author did very well, particularly with his experiences of sensory overload. I enjoyed getting to know Christopher and all his quirks and preferences. I also enjoyed the little touches the author gave, like numbering the chapters in prime numbers, because this was very much something Christopher would have done. That being said, I did find the book to be fairly predictable. There are a couple “twists” in the story but I saw them coming, though this is because I can read between the lines where Christopher takes things literally. (Perhaps the author meant for it to be this way, showing the difference between the way the mind of the reader works and the way Christopher’s logical train of thought works? Hmm…)  I also got a little tired of all the unimportant/irrelevant details that Christopher gives and started to skim a lot in the second half of the book. Overall, I thought this was a good choice for an interesting, quirky, pretty easy read on vacation.

 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Oh my gosh. This book! I had been on the library wait list for months and finally got my hands on a copy and it was worth the wait! Kya, known by locals as “The Marsh Girl,” has lived most of her life in solitude in the North Carolina marsh. She is remarkably in tune with nature and rarely interacts with the locals in the nearby town. One day, a murder occurs and suspicion is thrown to Kya. I don’t want to give away more of the plot so I’ll just say that while it took me a chapter or two to really get into the story, once I did I was absolutely swept away. This book is just beautiful and incredibly well written, a captivating tale of love, heartbreak, prejudice, and survival. The descriptions of the marsh life are vivid and enchanting. And the characters are expertly crafted and human, with flaws, mistakes, regrets. And Kya’s strength and resiliency despite the rejections of her life is remarkable and makes her endearing to the reader. As the book works its way towards solving the murder, my heart was pounding and I was just flying through chapters. I highly recommend this one!

 

I’ve got a lot of other books that just came off the library wait list so I’m extra excited for what’s coming up in March. What have you been loving reading lately?