My Week in Books (8/14/19)

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

My kids started school today and the only thing I’m happy about is the fact that we’re back onto a routine. In May, I’m most excited about throwing routine out the window, but after three months, I crave some consistency around our days. Both of my kiddos are in middle school this year, so it’s definitely bittersweet.

Anyway, on to books! What have you been reading (and loving) this week?

Last Week’s Reads:Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 8.31.14 PM

📖 I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by: Sarah Steward Holland & Beth A. Silvers (Thomas Nelson) – Pub Date: February 5, 2019

This book is important – especially considering our current political climate. The hosts of @pantsuitpolitics do a wonderful job of demonstrating what grace means and how we can all extend that same grace to others in our lives that we don’t necessarily see eye to eye with.

📖 Patsy by: Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn (Liveright) – Pub Date: June 4, 2019

I’m hosting a #patsybuddyread for Patsy (along with Jenna Bush Hagar – hey, girl, hey! – and I had every intention of only reading the sections for each week…but I could not put this one down. At times I hated Patsy and at other times my heart completely broke for this woman who’s just trying her hardest and doing the best she can. There’s a TON of stuff to dissect in this book and I’m looking forward to our discussions throughout the week. If you’d like to join, shoot me a message and I’ll get you added on Instagram (@happiestwhenreading).

📖 Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by: Jose Antonio Vargas (Dey Street Books) – Pub Date: September 18, 2018

I can’t think of a better follow-up book to Patsy. Vargas was brought to America as a small child. When he went to the local DMV to get his driver’s permit, he found out his papers were fake and that he was, in fact, not a US citizen like he always thought he was. Vargas went on to become an incredible journalist and this book gives detailed insight into America’s problematic immigration system. This read is timely given the situation on the US/Mexico border and I think all Americans (especially those in politics) need to read this book!

📖 *** Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by: J. Michael Straczynski (Harper Voyager) – Pub Date: July 23, 2019

I always love a memoir that shows grit and resilience in the face of the most horrible adverse circumstances. Straczynski rose from an extremely abusive – physically, emotionally, and mentally – home and went on to be a major player in Hollywood movies, television, and comics. Though it got a little bogged down in his writing career (I wanted more of his childhood stories which include murder, Nazi collaborators, lying, and abuse), it was incredibly sad story, but I was happy to see him rise above his childhood circumstances.

Currently Reading:Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 8.34.15 PM*** The Goldfinch by: Donna Tartt (Little Brown) – Pub Date: October 22, 2013

I’m also hosting a seven-week #buddyread for The Goldfinch (#HWRgoldfinch). Again, find me on Instagram (@happiestwhenreading) if you’d like to join along. This is a reread for me and I’m allowing myself the time to savor it. Only three chapters in, I am entranced by Tartt’s writing, specifically her writing on grief. She captured the roller coaster of emotions so well and I think I’ll have to return to these chapters over and over again. Speaking of her writing, Tartt is seriously talented. Her attention to detail is unprecedented and I can’t wait to continue with the story!

🎧📖 *** Confessions of Frannie Langton by: Sara Collins (Harper) – Pub Date: May 21, 2019

I haven’t listened to even one second of this since last week. I have the audio and I also picked up the hardback from my local library, so hopefully I’ll be able to dive into it more this week!

DNF (aka: Not For Me):

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📖 Gift From the Sea by: Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Pantheon) – Pub Date: 1955

Listen, a book doesn’t get published over sixty years ago and have staying power if it ins’t good…but it’s just not for me. Sure, there are some great lessons, but it’s just a little too over the top for me. I DNF’d it around 50%, and I’m not sorry about it! (This would make a great gift for a girlfriend though!)

 

July 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

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With school just around the corner, I’m sad to say good-bye to summer.

However, I’d call my July reading month STELLAR. Here’s my Wrap-up by the numbers:

  • 13 books total (2 DNFs)
  • Average Rating: 4.5
  • 8 physical books, 4 e-books, 1 audiobook
  • 8 fiction, 5 non-fiction
  • Genre: 4 contemporary fiction, 1 literary fiction, 1 historical fiction, 1 memoir, 4 non-fiction, 1 thriller, 1 young adult
  • Rating: 7 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, 2 ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
  • Author: 9 female, 3 male, 1 they/them

So far this year, I’ve read 100 books and my average rating is a 4.0!! I’m pretty super excited about that!

My favorite book of the month was Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by: Lori Gottlieb! It’s like getting free counseling and I guarantee you can find pieces of you all over the pages. I underlined the heck out of my copy and know I will refer back to her #truthbombs over and over again.

Non-Fiction:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 📖 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by: Lori Gottlieb (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019

Like getting a year’s worth of free counseling, this book had me underling ALL THE THINGS! I saw myself reflected on every single page. This book is PURE GOLD!

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 📖 Three Women by: Lisa Taddeo (Avid Reader Press) – Pub Date: July 9, 2019

The most hyped book of the summer, I was sadly disappointed in this one. The further away I get from reading it, the less I like it. I think the marketing blurb is to blame for me not liking this one. It set me up for a novel about female desire (yes, please!), but it felt more like a look into three women’s lives as they overcome the sexual trauma they experienced when they were younger. The writing is good, but don’t feel bad if you decide to skip this one.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 📱*** American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by: Maureen Callahan (Viking) – Pub Date: July 2, 2019

I could not put this book down! So well-written, I was fully immersed in this story of a serial killer I’d never heard about. If you were a fan of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by: Michelle McNamara, you’ll like this one as well – maybe even more!

Memoir/LGTBQ+ Voices:

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 📖 *** A Year Without a Name by: Cyrus Grace Dunham (Little, Brown) – On Shelves: October 15, 2019

This book is small, but mighty. As Cyrus Grace Dunham struggles to find their identity, they reflect on the year they transitioned from a woman into a man. The writing is intense and beautiful and this isn’t a story I’ll soon forget.

Thriller: 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 📖 *** The Chain by: Adrian McKinty (Mulholland Books) – Pub Date: July 9, 2019

Looking for a thriller with a twist you’ve not read before? This is it! When Rachel receives a phone call that her daughter has been kidnapped, she’s instructed to kidnap another child if she doesn’t want her daughter to die. Just like the chain letters we’ve all gotten that say some horrible fate awaits us if we don’t forward it on, this book had me questioning what I would do in the same situation. The book lost a little bit of steam towards the end, but it was still an intense and action-packed ride!

Something Lighter:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 📱 *** Waiting for Tom Hanks by: Kerry Winfrey (Berkley) – Pub Date: June 11, 2019

Just when I think I can confidently say I’m not a #romcom fan, a book like this comes along. Cute, sweet, and with just enough quirk to make me enjoy it, Waiting for Tom Hanks captured my heart. I loved everything about it – the plot, the characters, the writing. It was the perfect summer/beach/pool read!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 📱 **** The Lager Queen of Minnesota by: J. Ryan Stradal (Pamela Dorman Books) – Pub Date: July 23, 2019

Another sweet and quirky read, Lager Queen made me wish I loved the taste of beer! But beyond that, the story was so unique and well-done that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I have yet to read Stradal’s first novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, but many have commented that it’s still better than this one. If that’s the case, I’m in for a treat!

Cultural/Historical Fiction:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 📖 Americanah by: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Anchor Books) – Pub Date: May 14, 2013

Initially I wasn’t loving this book but I know it was because I chose the wrong time in my life to read it. We were on vacation and there wasn’t a lot of time to sit and get immersed in the book. But this isn’t a book to be taken lightly. Tackling themes of race, immigration, emigration, finding one’s “home” and love, it’s obvious to me now that I wouldn’t have struggled as much had I waited for a less chaotic time to read it. None of that is the book’s fault; the blame fall solely on me. Once I gave it the attention it deserved, its importance became clear very quickly. I believe this is a book that will one day be a classic, inspiring generations to come! I truly think this should be required reading for all humans.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 📖 The Editor by: Steven Rowley (Putnam) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019

I wasn’t expecting to love this one as much as I did. Maybe it’s because I have a secret wish to be a writer, but this book touched my soul. I LOVED the addition of Jackie O and found the addition of her character a true delight. 

Complicated Issues/Relationships:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 📱 *** The Gifted School by: Bruce Holsinger (Riverhead) – Pub Date: July 2, 2019

When I initially finished this book my first thought was, “What’s the big deal?” Everyone seemed to be raving about it on #bookstagram and I wasn’t quite as smitten as they all seemed to be. But as I got further away from it, I found that I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I kept going over and over what happened, so I bumped it up a star. The writing is excellent and I found it quite relatable as a parent of middle school kids. I think all parents really just have their children’s best interests at heart, but it doesn’t take much to cross the line into crazy territory!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 🎧 *** Daisy Jones and The Six by: Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019

I read and loved this book earlier this year, but had a strong case of #fomo for not listening to the audiobook. Both formats are equally good and I’m glad I listened to both! (This book make my #halfwaytopten list!)

YA/Social Justice:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 📖 Internment by: Samira Ahmed (Little, Brown) – Pub Date: March 19, 2019

Given what is currently happening at the United States/Mexico border, I think everyone would benefit from reading this one. Set “15 minutes in the future”, Layla and her family are relocated to an interment camp after the president declares “all Muslims enemies of the state.” It’s a sad reality of what our politics look like right now. Internment is another book that should be required reading for all humans – especially those in a leadership political position.

“What’s that thing people always say about history? Unless we know our history, we’re doomed to repeat it? Never forget? Isn’t that the lesson? But we always forget. Forgetting is in the American grain.”

For the Writer at Heart:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 📖 *** Wild Words: Rituals, Routines, and Rhythms for Braving the Writer’s Path by: Nicole Gulotta (Roost Books) – On Shelves: October 15, 2019

If you’re a writer (or a creator in any sort of way), this book is for you! Methodical and inspirational, Gulotta tackles all the hurdles creative people fight. This book touched my soul and reminded me that writing is part of who I am.

Not For Me (AKA: DNF):

*** 🎧 Whisper Network by: Chandler Baker (Flatiron) – Pub Date: July 2, 2019

I listened to 23% and realized I just didn’t really care. After seeing many mixed reviews, I didn’t feel bad about throwing in the towel. 🤷🏼‍♀️

📱 Bunny: A Novel by: Mona Awad (Viking) – Pub Date: June 11, 2019

From the beginning I felt like this one was going to be too weird for me, but the reviews had me curious so I pushed on. Eventually the thorough confusion I was feeling was too much for me and I DNF’d it at 42%. If you read it and finished it, feel free to spoil the ending for me!

Also, in case you missed it:

My #halfwaytopten list!

And I’ll be publishing the August Book Club Read Alongs soon (here’s the July Book Club List)!

My Week in Books (7/30/19)

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)
(Full Disclosure: If you decide to purchase a book through the Amazon link, I will receive a small compensation from that purchase. Thank you!)

My kids start school in two weeks, and I’m just wondering where the heck the last three months went?! It’s an especially bittersweet year as this is my oldest’s last year before high school and my youngest’s first year of middle school. I can hardly believe my kids are growing up. In my mind they should still be 5- and 7-years-old. 😔

Anyway, on to books! What have you been reading (and loving) this week?

Last Week’s Reads:

Screen Shot 2019-07-30 at 11.22.06 AMMaybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by: Lori Gottlieb (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019

This book is PURE GOLD! I am loving every page of it and feel like I’m getting some free counseling. My book is underlined to the max and I will be referring to some of these quotes over and over again. Just trust me and read this one!

*** Wild Words: Rituals, Routines, and Rhythms for Braving the Writer’s Path by: Nicole Gulotta (Roost Books) – On Shelves: October 15, 2019

This book spoke to my heart. Divided into sections, or “seasons” as Gulotta refers to them – The Season of Beginnings, The Season of Self-Doubt, The Season of Finishing – are the exact emotions I have had surrounding my writing dreams. While I have a long ways to go to have anything worthy of calling a “book” (and hey, just being honest here, but it will probably never be a “book”), Gulotta’s book was just the inspiration I need to, at the very least, continue journaling and getting some of my thoughts and ideas down on paper. This is a wonderful companion for any writer. It’s slow and gentle and meditative – exactly what a writer needs to hear. This one releases in October, so mark your calendars!

🎧 *** Daisy Jones and The Six by: Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019

Listening to the audiobook is equally as good as reading the print copy! Click here to read my full review from earlier this year!

Currently Reading:

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Strangers and Cousins by: Leah Hager Cohen (Riverhead) – Pub Date: May 14, 2019

Hoping to make a final decision on this one by tomorrow. It’s not a favorite so far so there’s a good chance it’ll end up in the DNF pile. But here’s crossing my fingers it doesn’t!

DNF (aka: Not For Me):

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Bunny by: Mona Awad (Viking) – Pub Date: June 11, 2019

DNF @ 42%. I would have DNFd sooner but all the reviews kept me going. I finally realized that it’s just too bizarre and disconnected for me to care.

My Week in Books (7/25/19)

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)
(Full Disclosure: If you decide to purchase a book through the Amazon link, I will receive a small compensation from that purchase. Thank you!)

We were out of town all last week, so my reading life was 👎🏼👎🏼👎🏼.

Also, the book I chose to take with me – Americanah – wasn’t the best idea. It’s just not the kind of book that lends itself to dipping in and out of. Thankfully, I persevered and gave it some time once we got home and things weren’t quite so chaotic and ended up loving it!

I can’t believe summer is winding down. The locusts are out, and for me, that always signifies the beginning of the end. I love fall, but I hate losing the carefree attitude that comes with summer (my kids start school is less than three weeks! 😔).

Anyway, on to books! What have you been reading (and loving) this week?

Last Week’s Reads:

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Americanah by: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Anchor Books) – Pub Date: May 14, 2013

I almost quit this one, but I quickly realized it had more to do with me than the book. I needed to devote some uninterrupted time to truly grasp the genius of this book. I believe this is a book that will stand the test of time and will eventually be considered a classic. I also see it being added to high school and college curriculum to better teach the nuances of issues like race and class privilege, racism, immigration and emigration. This is a book that I think should be required reading for humanity.

Currently Reading:Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 7.53.33 AMStrangers and Cousins by: Leah Hager Cohen (Riverhead) – Pub Date: May 14, 2019

This was Annie B. Jones’ Shelf Subscription pick a few months ago. Since receiving it, I have seen many rave reviews. So far, it’s very strange. I’m not sure it’s for me, but I’m going to read a little further before deciding.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by: Lori Gottlieb (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019

This book is PURE GOLD! I am loving every page of it and feel like I’m getting some free counseling. My book is underlined to the max and I will be referring to some of these quotes over and over again. Can’t wait to finish it!

Bunny by: Mona Awad (Viking) – Pub Date: June 11, 2019

I’m intrigued by this one…mostly by the reviews: “That. was. WILD.” and being described as “bizarre”. Only one chapter in…we’ll see how this goes!

🎧 *** Daisy Jones and The Six by: Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019

Haven’t had a lot of opportunity to listen to audiobooks, but I’m still loving this one. It’s equally as good on audio as in print, so readers who prefer one way over the other won’t be disappointed!

*** Wild Words: Rituals, Routines, and Rhythms for Braving the Writer’s Path by: Nicole Gulotta (Roost Books) – On Shelves: October 15, 2019

Hoping to finish this one up this week – or at least before the month is over!

DNF (aka: Not For Me):Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 7.55.22 AM

🎧 *** Whisper Network by: Chandler Baker (Flatiron) – Pub Date: July 2, 2019

I’m pretty sure this one is going to be DNF’d before I finish it. It’s just not holding my interest and I never find myself wanting to listen to this one. (Whisper Network is Reece Witherspoon’s Book Club pick for July.)

Three Women

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Three Women is THE book of the summer; it’s literally everywhere! So far the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, so it’s with a great amount of hesitation that I am here to say – on record – that it just wasn’t that revolutionary for me. 🤷🏼‍♀️ I think my expectations were completely off…if it would have been like I thought it was going to be heading in, it promised to be not only one of the best books of the year, but of all-time. Sadly, it fell extremely short of my expectations, and it truly bummed me out.

What I did love about this book was Taddeo’s writing. It’s off-the-charts fantastic (though some of her metaphors were a bit of a stretch) and for that reason alone, I think you should read this one. She took a fairly taboo nonfiction topic (women’s sexuality and desires) and made it read like a page-turning fictional novel. I was immersed in each of these women, though I definitely cared the most about Maggie’s story. Again, for Maggie’s story alone, I encourage you to read this book!

I was enflamed with the way Maggie was treated by a person in a position of trust and the way her community hung her out to dry. The repercussions to her life were far-reaching and she is still dealing with them today. I hope the publicity of this book forces the people – especially the school district of Sheyenne High School – where Aaron Knodel is currently employed.

Other than those two things, the rest of the book didn’t do much for me. I’m very confused as to what Taddeo’s thesis was…the reviews and articles I’ve read make me feel like she was trying to teach us to not judge other women and the decisions they make – specifically, the sexual choices she makes – but that did not come through clearly to me at all! With the exception of Maggie, I didn’t feel connected or sympathetic or enlightened by either Lina’s or Sloane’s stories. They ultimately just distracted me from the only story I really cared about – Maggie’s.

There were parts of each woman’s story that I could relate to, but they are fleeting examples and I truly just feel like I’m grasping for any straw to feel a connection to these women. Lina’s affair felt like justification for her lack of sexual attention from her husband, and while I’m not supposed to judge that decision, I also cannot just gloss over her behavior towards herself, her husband, or her lover’s wife and children. As a society, we’ve never allowed a man to justify his behavior, so why should women be allowed to? Poor Lina has a long list of issues that would be best served with some therapy, and not allowing her self-worth to be determined by some guy from high school.

Sloane’s story is the one that stuck with me the least. She just feels like a privileged white women who demands a lot of attention to fuel her self-worth. I saw such a lack of depth in her character and her story. I felt sorry for the wife of her lover and felt her inability to give the wife the answers she asked for was cowardly and turned me off from her entirely.

Overall, out of the thousands of women she interviewed, I am surprised that these three – actually, two – were the ones Taddeo chose to highlight. I would have assumed there was much more depth and complexity and enlightenment in other women’s stories.

To be fair to this book, here is a link to an article written by Stephanie Danler. She loved this book and wrote quite an insightful and well-thought out review.

 

 

The Editor

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The Editor by Steven Rowley
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Pub Date: April 2, 2019
Length: 320 pages

Brief Synopsis:

After years of struggling to publish a book, James Smale finally sells his autobiographical novel to an editor – Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis! Mrs. Onassis guides Smale through the editing process, and in an effort to find the book’s ending, she also steers Smale back to a reconciled relationship with his mother.

My Thoughts:

I immediately became fascinated with this story as soon as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was introduced. In fact, I stopped reading for awhile and fell down a rabbit hole of internet research to explore the life of Mrs. O. (Here are the two main articles I read: Vanity Fair and Town and Country Magazine.) I wasn’t alive during the JFK presidency or assassination, but as an American, the story of Camelot and the Kennedys is something I grew up enamored by. As I read The Editor though, it quickly became obvious to me that I knew absolutely nothing about Jacqueline’s background beyond her fashion sense.

After President Kennedy was assassinated, Jackie quickly disappeared from public life. Only 41 years old when she was widowed, she had very young children to take care of. She eventually accepted a position with Viking Press as an editor and her starting salary was $200 per week. After a controversial book regarding the futuristic assassination of Robert Kennedy was published, Jackie quietly resigned from Viking and moved over to Doubleday Publishing. There, the books she acquired reflected her interests in culture, history, and art. She eventually edited over 100 books over her 19 year career. She passed away in May 1994 from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in New York City.

I love novels about complicated family dynamics, and more specifically, stories about mothers and their children. I understand now, more than ever, that all relationships are complicated, but none more so than that of a mother’s to her children. We expect our mothers to be perfect and to live gracefully on top of the pedestal we put them on, but the reality is that they are flawed and complicated and confused just like the rest of us. Ultimately, we’re all just doing the best we can with what we have at the time, but as a mother, we’re not always granted that grace or acceptance.

I loved the dynamic that played out between James and his mother throughout the book. Using the editing process as the background for the journey, Rowley actually portrays the road to acceptance and forgiveness. When stories and secrets shape your life, there is bound to be a transformation when they eventually come out. We could only hope our story of forgiveness would heal and transform us as beautifully as it did for James and his mom.

The Editor does a lovely job of weaving Jacqueline Kennedy throughout the story without letting her take it over. Her simple persuasion is felt throughout – and while there’s no way of knowing how accurately this portrayed her editor role in real life – Steven Rowley does a beautiful job with finding that balance.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this one, but it pleasantly surprised me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you will too!

Kaytee (from the Currently Reading Podcast) recently recommended this book on Episode 16 of Sarah’s Book Shelves podcast (download and listen to the episode here).

 

 

 

My Week in Books (5/27/19)

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

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Am I the only one that constantly reevaluates what I feel is working on #bookstagram and what isn’t? Recently, I announced that I’d no longer include the Most Likely To Read Next section, and today I’m here to let you know that I will no longer do star ratings. I don’t do them here on the blog that much anyway, but I do over on my instagram account.

Here’s the deal: everybody’s star rating system is different. I know what a “3” rating means to me, and honestly? When I see a 3 rating on any other account, I kind of automatically dismiss the review entirely. I kind of only pay attention to 4 and 5 star ratings. I think I’d rather someone disregard a book after they read my review than to see some emojis and move on. (If you’re a stickler for those stars though, no worries…follow me on Goodreads!)

Last Week’s Reads:

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*** City of Girls by: Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead) – On Shelves: June 4, 2019

This is going to be one of the shortest reviews I’ve ever written: PREORDER THIS BOOK NOW (it releases next Tuesday, June 4)!

You will not regret it; in fact, it will end up on your favorites shelf just as soon as you finish it. If you were a fan of #TheSevenHusbandsofEvelynHugo, you’ll love this one just as much. It’s brilliantly done with complicated love relationships and a gorgeous study of a life full of ups and downs in NYC during the 1930s.

I listened to a podcast last year (yes, that long ago!) where Elizabeth Gilbert talked about writing this book. The love of her life had just passed away and she was devastated, but she had a deadline to meet so she threw herself into this story. I couldn’t help but read between the lines of some of the writing and I was blown away by the depth of emotions Gilbert was able to capture. I may have read entirely too much into it, but it made it that much more human to me.

*** Ask Again, Yes by: Mary Beth Keane (Scribner) – On Shelves: May 28, 2019

When I read the last sentence of this beautiful story, I knew I’d found one of my Top Ten Books of 2019. I just can’t imagine this one losing its place at the end of the year. It’s got everything I devour in a book – coming-of-age, tragedy, complicated relationships, love, forgiveness, and hope.

As neighbors, the Gleesons and Stanhopes were never close. The Standhopes kept to themselves, but you could tell something was always simmering just below the surface. On the other hand, the Gleesons looked like the All-American family – a well-respected cop and a mother of three beautiful girls. As Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope grow up in school together, they forge a friendship that will be tested by the ultimate tragedy.

“You think a person comes out of a house like that undamaged? You don’t see it now, Kate, but it’s there. I promise you. Marriage is long. All the seams get tested.”

Reminiscent of Everything Here is Beautiful (read my review here), Mary Beth Keane takes a careful look at mental illness and its affects – not only to the person herself, but also to those surrounding her. This story shows a long and tenuous road to forgiveness, hope, and healing. It demonstrates a beautiful portrayal of love and steadfastness, even when all the odds are stacked against you.

🎧 The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by: Balli Kaur Jaswal (William Morrow) – Pub Date: April 30, 2019

I have Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows on my bookshelf and just haven’t ever gotten to it. But after listening to this one on audiobook, I believe it will make a swift climb to the top!

When their mother dies, she leaves wishes for her three daughters to take a pilgrimage back to India to spread her ashes. The girls don’t have a strong relationship as the years and misunderstandings and distance has pulled them apart. But as they journey across India to their mother’s final destination, they will also find their way back to each other.

Despite the cartoonish cover, this book is deep and emotional. The characters are all struggling with their own internal issues that gives them some depth that I wasn’t expecting. I loved the narrator’s voice and it carried me away with the story. This audiobook is long (just over 13 hours) but I wasn’t really eager for it to end.

This story was another reminder of why it’s important to consider another’s perspective before jumping to conclusions in misunderstandings. Most of the time, there are underlying circumstances that contribute to the problem at hand, and if we’d just consider these possibilities with a little empathy and understanding, our relationships would be better for it. I don’t have a sister, but this book made me wish I did!

*** Mrs. Everything by: Jennifer Weiner (Atria) – On Shelves: June 11, 2019

One of the most highly anticipated books of the summer, Mrs. Everything follows the ups and downs of a sister relationship over the span of eighty years. While I was expecting something a little lighter, I still found myself engrossed in the story of Jo and Bethie. I think it could have been about 100 pages less to appeal to a wider audience, but overall, this is a book that will be widely talked about this summer!

Currently Reading/Listening:

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🎧 With the Fire on High by: Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen) – Pub Date: May 7, 2019

This one showed up on Hoopla and I have been seeing it all over #bookstagram. The reviews have been fantastic, and so far, I’m LOVING the audiobook!

*** Out East: Memoir of a Montauk Summer by: John Glynn (Grand Central Publishing) – Pub Date: May 14, 2019

Half way through and I’m confused. This book is EVERYWHERE; they hype is real. But I’m still waiting for something to happen. More when I finish.

*** Stop Doing That Sh*t by: Gary John Bishop (Thorsons) – Pub Date: May 7, 2019

Part of my self-development and morning routine reading. It’s good so far!

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by: Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead) – Pub Date: September 22, 2015

Also part of my morning reading. This is a reread so I know what I’m getting into, but it’s not as good as I remembered it being. 🤔 I’ll keep plugging away…for a little bit longer, but not much! 🤷🏼‍♀️

DNF:

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*** The Desert Sky Before Us by: Anne Valente (William Morrow) – Pub Date: May 14, 2019

This one had great potential, but there were a few things that just weren’t working for me. I appreciate that an author has to dangle some carrots in order to keep their audience engaged, but when those carrots just keep adding up and none of them are resolved, I found that I stopped caring. It ruined the overall excitement for me. Also, there were a few too convenient things that would happen. It’s just unrealistic and it was one-too-many eye rolls for me to continue. Last, though no fault of the author’s, there was some editing that clearly needed to happen. I only read through 150 pages and it was very repetitive. I got the point! Jeez. And this is one of those books we all seem to hate – the ones with no quotation marks…drove me bonkers.

In the end, this one just felt like more work than it was worth. The premise was enticing to me and I am curious how this wraps itself up, but I couldn’t get passed a few of my issues enough to slog though.

*** On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by: Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press) – On Shelves: June 4, 2019

Liberty Hardy, Tyler Goodson, and Hunter have all read and raved about this one. For the first half, I was into it. I thought I’d found my next favorite book, but it slowly, slowly fizzled out for me. It definitely could have been the format (ebook) and/or a case of wrong time (end of school year = busy, busy, busy). Regardless, I made a deal with myself that when I find I no longer care, I’m giving up. My bookshelves overflow and I wanna move on! Maybe I’ll keep my eye out for more reviews and return to this one when I have an actual copy in hand.

Tell me, friends, what’s been your favorite reads lately?