My Week in Books (5/13/19)

(#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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I hope all of you mothers had a wonderful day yesterday being celebrated! I have to admit that it’s hard for me to get excited about Mother’s Day – this will be the fifth one without my own mama to spend the day with. But I have to remind myself that my own children deserve to celebrate this holiday with their mama, so I put my sadness to the side and try to embrace the moment with them.

All grief aside, it was a wonderful day shared with those that mean the most to me. I hope the same for all of you!

Last Week’s Reads:

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*** The Night Tiger by: Yangsze Choo (Flatiron) – Pub Date: February 12, 2019

As one of Reece Witherspoon’s Book Club picks, I was excited to read this one! I haven’t read all the books she’s chosen, but I’ve had great success with the ones I have. This is a story set in 1930s Malaya (modern-day Malaysia) and it’s rife with themes of magical realism, Chinese superstition, and mystery. Also, a missing finger. 🤷🏼‍♀️ Admittedly, I would usually shy away from a book with that description and that’s probably why it’s sat on my #unreadBOTM shelf for as long as it did.

But I gotta say, Choo’s writing is so beautiful that I was pulled into the story right away. I wanted to know about this mysterious tiger, the seemingly connected deaths, and this missing finger. I began by alternating between reading my hard copy and listening to it on audio, and I quickly abandoned the book altogether because the audio was incredible. Choo narrates the book herself and she is fantastic! I’ll listen to anything she reads!

Overall the book was engaging and I loved the story. And while this had potential to be a 5-star read for me, there were a few problematic things I couldn’t get passed. The main one was the step-sibling romance. I know they aren’t technically related, but it was so off-putting to me that I really wanted to skip over these sections; however, their part was central to the story. I don’t understand why it was so important to add in to the story because it would have been just as strong without that addition. Also, there was a mid-book slump that definitely killed the momentum – thank goodness it sped right back up towards the end!

*** The Unhoneymooners by: Christina Lauren (Gallery Books) – On Shelves: May 14, 2019

This book will be for me this year what The Kiss Quotient was for me last year – a sweet and fun rom-com summer/beach read. Olive and Ethan surmount innumerable hurdles to finally find themselves happily in love with each other. There were funny moments and hilarious one-liners throughout that kept me rolling through the pages.

I did find it very slow to start and that was a little frustrating. I was a little annoyed with Olive’s reaction to the culminating issue (#nospoilers) but when I remind myself that rom-coms are supposed to be taken more lightly, I realize that everything fit together perfectly in the end.

Overall, I appreciated Olive’s growth throughout the novel and her advocacy for being a curvy girl with no shame. We need more of this from authors! I liked the evolution of Olive and Ethan’s relationship, and I loved Olive’s supportive family and her relationship with her twin sister.

This is the second book I’ve read by Christina Lauren (the other one was Love and Other Words). If forced to choose, I think I prefer this one, but generally speaking, this writing duo masterfully writes the rom-com story!

*** A Bend in the Stars by: Rachel Barenbaum (Grand Central Publishing) – On Shelves: May 14, 2019

While I was hoping I would love this one a little more than I did, I still found it a fascinating look at Russia just prior to the start of WWI. There’s A LOT going on in this story – an eclipse is coming which will help solve Einstein’s incomplete Theory of Relativity, the family is separated and supposed to meet back up in another part of Russia before trying to escape to America, there are soldiers and other people in pursuit of them all because they are Jewish, and there is a love triangle.

Seriously, ALL of this activity was a little distracting at points. It felt like the author realized she had a lot of loose ends to tie up because the ending was quick and abrupt for me. Overall, I liked the story but it lacked the emotional connection throughout. I kept reading thinking I would eventually find it, but it eluded me up until the last 25% of the book. I thought the characters were well-developed and I was very curious where this story would end up. The story kept me turning pages – but for me, the story never found its rhythm.

Also, I would have appreciated an Author’s Note at the end to see which parts of this book were factual – all I could come up with was that the solar eclipse was real and the climate of Russia pre-WWI was similar. I still don’t know if Einsten really did ask for scientists to help him complete his theory or if that was just embellished for the story.

The Mother-in-Law by: Sally Hepworth (St. Martin’s Press) – Pub Date: April 23, 2019

I didn’t read the synopsis going into this one; everyone seems to love it so I decided to give it a try. It’s way less thriller/mystery than I assumed it would be and way more of a complicated family drama. I was surprised at how smart it was. While there are some parts that were very unrealistic to me, I was still able to stick to the story because the characters were well-developed and there was an interesting plot to follow. I listened to this one on audio and it was fantastic!

Currently Reading/Listening:

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Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by: Jacob Tobia (G.P. Putnam) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019

Just about halfway through and this book is proving to be one of the most powerful memoirs I’ve ever read. I believe this will make it onto my Top Reads of 2019!

*** 1000+ Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently by: Marc and Angel Chernoff (Tarcherperigee) – On Shelves: May 21, 2019

Currently reading a few pages in the morning to kick off my day. It kind of reminds me of Timothy Ferriss’ Tools of Titans.

Likely to Read Next:

Moving forward, I will be eliminating this category from these posts. Honestly, I’m such a mood reader that I rarely read the books that I put here, so in an effort to streamline my efforts and not waste time, this feature will no longer be available!

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

My Week in Books (5/6/19)

(#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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Summer is so close I can taste it! I’m dreaming of lazy days on the lake with a book in my hands! As other mama’s know, May is the new December…so here’s to a few chaotic weeks and then sweet, sweet summertime!

Last Week’s Reads:

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Verity by: Colleen Hoover (Hoover Ink, Inc.) – Pub Date: December 7, 2018

Every time I see a review for this one, the emoji 🤯 is included. It set the expectations high…and while I enjoyed this book – it’s a true page turner – I also think I kept wondering when my mind was actually going to be blown. I didn’t feel like it ever had that twist that was sure to blow me away; it was predictable to me throughout. However, that predictability didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book. It’s dark…very dark…so dark it reminded me of Baby Teeth (another book I’m not sure I should be proud to admit I liked. 😬🤷🏼‍♀️).

This is a departure for Colleen Hoover. She usually writes in more of the romance genre, so it was fun to see this new side of her writing. She’s talented; there’s no doubt about that! I really enjoy her writing style – regardless of the genre!

Reviews are EVERYWHERE for this book, but I kind of think going in blind would be better for this one in particular. The reviews kind of set you up for some crazy, outlandish thing to happen, and in my opinion, that somewhat stole the thunder from my overall reading experience.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by: Shauna Niequist (Zondervan) – Pub Date: August 9, 2016

I last read this book in 2016 and I can honestly say it changed my family’s life. We were stuck in the hustle of busyness (can anyone say travel baseball?!?) and, while it was a tough decision to stop chasing my son around the baseball diamond, it was absolutely the right decision for our family. It felt like the weight of the world was lifted off our shoulders and we got our life back! Thankfully, three years later, we’ve said goodbye to baseball for good; our summer looks wide open and the view has never been better!

I don’t know why, but Niequist’s “permission” to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses and to make the decisions that are right for my family was exactly what I needed to hear at that stage of my life. When I saw this audiobook available on my Hoopla app, I decided to give it another go and I’m glad I did. Different parts of the book spoke to me the second time around, but it was still so good!

I put this book in the same category as Tiny Beautiful Things and anything written by Brene Brown. These are books you can return to over and over again and still find nuggets of truth. 

*** The Farm by: Joanne Ramos (Random House) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019

“Golden Oaks hired women to be surrogates. If you were chosen to be a Host you lived in a luxury house in the middle of the countryside where your only job was to rest and keep the baby inside you healthy. According to Mrs. Rubio, Golden Oaks’ clients were the richest, most important people from all over the world, and for carrying their babies Hosts were paid a great deal of money.”

I was hesitant going into this one because I mostly saw poor reviews or DNFs. The Goodreads rating is low – only 3.5. Somewhere I saw a comparison to The Handmaid’s Tale and dystopian themes so, regardless of the opinions I’d seen, I knew I needed to check it out for myself.

And thank goodness I did! I really enjoyed this one! This is the kind of story I LOVE – realistic but not outlandish, depth that goes beyond the surface level, multiple perspectives and layers, and a story that gets under your skin so well that you can’t stop thinking about after you’ve finished.

This would be a great book club choice as there are themes of wealth and privilege, opportunity, surrogacy, “designer” babies, immigrants and their limited options, and many more to discuss.

*** What Matters Most: The Get Your Shit Together Guide To Wills, Money, Insurance, and Life’s “What-Ifs” by: Chanel Reynolds (Harper Wave) – Pub Date: March 19, 2019

When Reynold’s husband was tragically killed in a bicycle accident, she quickly realized that they didn’t have their sh*t together (regarding wills, medical decisions, and estate planning)From that experience, Reynolds set up a website and wrote this book to help people have the tough conversations in order to be as prepared as possible should tragedy also strike their families.

While I enjoyed this book very much, it didn’t have as much as the logistical information I was hoping for. My husband and I are in the midst of updating our wills so I was hoping to get better information for that process. This read more like a memoir to me…so in that respect, it was very good. As a guide to getting your sh*t together though, it fell short for me.

*** Juliet the Maniac: A Novel by: Juliet Escoria (Melville House) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019

This is a semi-autobiographical novel about mental health issues, anxiety, and depression. It’s a tough read at times; my heart hurt so bad reading about Escoria’s experiences and knowing there’s nothing I could do to help her. I was frustrated by her parents and their seemingly obliviousness to their daughter’s cries for help. Once they did get her the help she needed, she ended up in a boarding school that was later shut down for inappropriate practices. 

There were parts of this book I really enjoyed (if that’s the right word given the content of the book), but I was also a little bored after awhile. At times, it felt like a regurgitation of all of the same information, but without any new insights or clarity to the behavior. After awhile, it’s just hard to continually read about someone’s downward spiral without any sense of hope.

Also, the book ended very abruptly when she turned eighteen and returned home. And while she referenced several times that she was thirty-two years old and married when she wrote the book, we have no idea how she got there; those years are not accounted for whatsoever. We don’t know if she’s good now or still struggling with her bipolar diagnosis. If she continues to seek help for her drug addiction…I guess I’m left assuming she’s doing well now, but some closure in that respect would have been nice.

There are many, many trigger warnings here, so be careful if you’re nervous about: mental health, anxiety, depression, suicide, drug use, cutting, and/or hallucinations. 

Currently Reading/Listening:

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*** The Night Tiger by: Yangsze Choo (Flatiron Books) – Pub Date: February 12, 2019

This one has been on my list for a few months so when Reece Witherspoon chose it as her Book Club’s April read, I knew it was finally time to read it! I have it in hard copy, but I also got the audible after hearing Reece’s endorsement! (If you’d like to receive 3-for-1 audiobooks, follow this link to Libro.fm and use my promo code: HAPPIEST)

*** A Bend in the Stars by: Rachel Barenbaum (Grand Central Publishing) – On Shelves: May 14, 2019

Compared to All the Light We Cannot See (which I loved!), this novel is set in Russia during WWI. A time period I don’t see in historical fiction novels too often, I am excited to read about the political climate as well as Albert Einstein! This one promises to be intense and has one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen in awhile!

Likely to Read Next:

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*** The Unhoneymooners by: Christina Lauren (Gallery Books) – On Shelves: May 14, 2019

I’m already seeing some of my trusted review friends singing this one’s praises! Looking forward to diving in soon!

Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by: Jacob Tobia (Putnam) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019

Yes…STILL on my list, and I’m mad about it! I have so many ARCs I need to read and review that this one keeps getting pushed to the back…but not for much longer. I’m dying to read this one!

I’m Fine and Neither Are You by: Camille Pagán (Lake Union Publishing) – Pub Date: April 1, 2019

Hearing great things about this one and I’m curious to get started on it!

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

April 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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I think I’m most excited by the fact that, year-to-date, my reading average is 3.9! I credit this with DNFing books that just aren’t working for me…but what’s truly exciting about that bookish fact is that I haven’t hit a reading slump in forever! Woot woot! That’s all I really care about – so if DNFing books keeps my reading life happy, I’m here for it!

(Clink the link to head to my #minibookreview!)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ *** #IMomSoHard by: Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley (HarperOne) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 🎧 Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by: Brittney Cooper (St. Martin’s Press) – Pub Date: February 20, 2018

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 *** Lost Roses by: Martha Hall Kelly (Ballantine) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ *** When We Left Cuba by: Chanel Cleeton (Berkley) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by: Cheryl Strayd (Vintage) – Pub Date: July 10, 2012

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I Miss You When I Blink: Essays by: Mary Laura Philpott (Atria) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 *** The Parrot’s Perch by: Karen Keilt (She Writes Press) – Pub Date: April 16, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ *** Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by: Mira Jacob (One World) – Pub Date: March 26, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Finding Dorothy by: Elizabeth Letts (Ballantine) – Pub Date: February 12, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Life Will Be the Death of Me:…And You Too! by: Chelsea Handler (Spiegel & Grau) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️ Normal People by: Sally Rooney (Hogarth) – Pub Date: April 16, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️ *** The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by: Helen Hoang (Berkley) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 *** The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by: Melinda Gates (Flatiron) – Pub Date: April 23, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Miracle Creek by: Angie Kim (Sarah Crichton Books) – Pub Date: April 16, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 The Girls at 17 Swann Street by: Yara Zgheib (St. Martin’s) – Pub Date: February 5, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Girl He Used To Know by: Tracey Garvis Graves (St. Martin’s) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Verity by: Colleen Hoover (Hoover Ink, Inc.) – Pub Date: December 7, 2018

DNF: It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by: Megan Devine (Sounds True) – Pub Date: January 1, 2018

DNF: Warlight by: Michael Ondaatje (Knopf) – Pub Date: May 8, 2018

DNF: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by: Robin DiAngelo (Beacon Press) – Pub Date: June 26, 2018

DNF: White Elephant by: Julie Langsdorf (ECCO) – Pub Date: March 26, 2019

DNF: A Veil Removed (Henrietta and Inspector Howard, #4) by: Michelle Cox (She Writes Press) – Pub Date: April 30, 2019

My Week in Books (4/29/19)

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(#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.)

We headed out of town this week to watch my niece’s dance recital! It was a great weekend with family and now we’re gearing up for the last month of school. I can’t believe we’re heading into summer; this year flew by for us! Do any of you guys have fun plans for this summer?

Last Week’s Reads:

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*** The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by: Melinda Gates (Flatiron) – Pub Date: April 23, 2019

  • “Saving lives starts with bringing everyone in. Our societies will be healthiest when they have no outsiders. We should strive for that. We have to keep working to reduce poverty and disease. We have to help outsiders resist the power of people who want to keep them out. But we have to do our inner work as well: We have to wake up to the ways we exclude. We have to open our arms and our hearts to the people we’ve pushed to the margins. It’s not enough to help outsiders fight their way in – the real triumph will come when we no longer push anyone out.”

    I have long believed that the change in the world we are so desperately seeking will come first through the empowerment of women. They are the ones that first demonstrate love, kindness, empathy, and compassion. Because many of our societies are patriarchal, I believe, women hold the power to be the change agents. While that’s easier to say in some cultures than others, it’s through the awareness and work of people like Melinda Gates that the opportunities are being created for all women to share in this powerful movement.

    This book is a true gem – full of insightful and educational information, I quickly had to get a highlighter because there was so much here to digest. It’s a book I will continually return to because Gates has not only presented us with some of the life-changing work she has embarked on, but she also gives us – privileged people – ideas and ways to also help empower all women of the world, especially those that are poor. She gives hope throughout the book and I have a lot of respect for the work she and her husband, Bill Gates, are doing to heal societies and to give women around the world a chance to succeed.

Miracle Creek by: Angie Kim (Sarah Crichton Books) – Pub Date: April 16, 2019

“But that was the way life worked. Every human being was the result of a million different factors mixing together…Good things and bad—every friendship and romance formed, every accident, every illness—resulted from the conspiracy of hundreds of things, in and of themselves inconsequential.”

From the first page, I had to know how this one was going to turn out. It was literary, but also very mysterious. Angie Kim weaves themes of immigration, parental and sacrificial love, morality, and courtroom drama into an engaging read that I couldn’t put down.

Admittedly, the ending frustrated me. But it also forced me to think about the choices I’d make to protect those I love. Would I do what Young did or would I do the opposite? It’s hard to ever know what one would do until put in that specific situation. I mean, I know what’s “right” in this situation, but given the circumstances in the story…would you do the “right” thing? Sometimes doing the right thing can feel so difficult. This topic alone would be so fascinating to discuss, making this a great book club selection pick!

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by: Yara Zgheib (St. Martin’s) – Pub Date: February 5, 2019

“Anorexia is the same girl with the same story, told over and over again. It does not matter what she is called; her name designates nothing. My name is Anna but anorexia got rid of it, my feelings, body, husband, life.”

Let me start by saying that this is an important book and a topic that should be given a voice. Anorexia (and bulimia) are legitimate and powerful diseases, and until recently, fairly misunderstood, I think. Zgheib tells the story of anorexia so carefully and compassionately that she gave me a clearer understanding of the disease and the perspective of those that have it. My best friend in high school had bulimia and eventually had to seek treatment for it. But she, and her family, hid it so well from the rest of us that, even I, as her best friend, never knew until it was obvious in her physique. I was too young to fully understand the issues surrounding eating disorders, and I wish I had known then what this book relays so well. 

This book is heartbreaking and demands a lot emotionally from the reader. Please be very mindful of picking this one up if eating disorders (anorexia and/or bulimia) or body image are triggering to you in any sort of way. Honestly, I do not have an unhealthy relationship with food in any sort of way and, at times, I found this book triggering even to me. I found myself analyzing my food choices in ways I never have before and a bagel with cream cheese has never looked so threatening!

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE BE CAREFUL when deciding if you should pick this one up!

*** 🎧 The Girl He Used To Know by: Tracey Garvis Graves (St. Martin’s) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019

After a chance encounter many years after their relationship ended, Anika and Jonathan meet again and rekindle their romance. Alternating between present day and 10 years prior, we discover what led to their demise the first time around.

This is a sweet romance and I found myself rooting for Jonathan and Anika from the beginning. While I sort of found Jonathan’s character a little “too good to be true”, I was also hopeful that there really are men out there with his character given the circumstances of the relationship (#nospoilers).

Unexpectedly, I LOVED the friendship between Anika and her roommate, Janelle. I truly appreciated and respected this healthy, no competition relationship and wish more authors would champion these types of female friendships in books more often. Instead, it seems like the marker is over saturated with mean girls, so I found this a refreshing and wonderful portrayal!

Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Light We Lost will love this one!

Possible trigger warnings: miscarriage, 9-11 events.

Currently Reading/Listening:

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*** A Veil Removed (Henrietta and Inspector Howard #4) by: Michelle Cox (She Writes Press) – Pub Date: April 30, 2019

This book is tough – I like it once I sit down and devout some time to reading it, but it’s really hard for me to want to even pick up in the first place. I kind of feel like I really just don’t care. I’m probably about halfway through…I plan on pushing through, but I feel so many other books calling to me and I may end up abandoning it. 😬

Likely to Read Next:

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*** The Farm by: Joanne Ramos (Random House) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019

I’m a huge fan of A Handmaid’s Tale and this one has been compared to it. Basically, women attend a “retreat” where all their needs are taken care of. The catch? They belong to the retreat for nine months – while they’re pregnant – and they lose all sense of autonomy. So far, this one seems to have quite a few negative reviews and DNFs which only intensifies my curiosity!

*** Juliet the Maniac: A Novel by: Juliet Escoria (Melville House) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019

Tyler Goodson gave this one five stars and that’s how this one landed on my radar. As a fourteen-year-old girl spirals into mental illness and self-destruction, this one sounds intense. The synopsis reminds me of Girl in Pieces which I really liked.

*** The Unhoneymooners by: Christina Lauren (Gallery Books) – On Shelves: May 14, 2019

A light-hearted beach read sounds about right! I’ve seen great reviews of this one already so I’m looking forward to it!

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

My Week in Books (4/22/19)

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(#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.)

{#partner #librofm) This week kicks off Independent Bookstore Day (read more here) – a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the United States on the last Saturday in April (this year it will be April 27th). To celebrate, Libro.fm wants to thank everyone who supports independent bookstores with five free audiobooks!

If you’re like me and live in a rural area where there isn’t an independent bookstore, Libro.fm allows you to still be able to support your favorite indie bookstore…which makes them my favorite place to buy audiobooks. Libro.fm is the first and only company to make it possible for customers to purchase audiobooks through their local bookstore of choice. This is an easy way to provide ongoing support to your bookstore from the convenience of your mobile device!

To thank everyone who supports independent bookstores, Libro.fm is gifting its members five free audiobooks. All you need is an account – which is free, does not require any credit card information, and does not require any commitment. What do you have to lose?

And just to sweeten the deal a little bit more…get your 5 free audiobooks at https://libro.fm/ibd?rf_code=lfm56658&cmp=IBDLLS and use HAPPIEST to also get 3-for-1 audiobooks when you join as a member! Then on Saturday, April 27th, you’ll also receive an email from Libro.fm with a link to collect your five free audiobooks!

It’s that simple! And it’s a decision you won’t ever regret!

Last Week’s Reads:

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  • *** The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by: Helen Hoang (Berkley) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019
    • I’m truly not a fan of romance, but Hoang creates quirky love stories unlike anyone else. I loved The Kiss Quotient last year, so I was excited to read the second book in the series. I was a little disappointed that this wasn’t a continuation of Stella and Michael’s story; we’re introduced to new characters in this book. This one didn’t hold up as well for me…There are still plenty of blush-worthy moments, but overall this one lacked engagement for me. I didn’t connect with the characters as deeply and I was just super frustrated with their lack of communication. Readers of Hoang’s first book will recognize and appreciate her writing as it is similar and if you’re looking for a quick and light summer read, give this one a try!
  • 🎧 Life Will Be the Death of Me:…And You Too! by: Chelsea Handler (Spiegel & Grau) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019
    • This book was the last thing I expected it to be. While I’ve never read any of Handler’s previous books, I know enough from her tv shows etc, to have made some presumptions about what this book would be about: drinking, joking, and pointless…BUT I WAS WRONG!! It’s so much more than that! Handler veers off from her regular course and gets real, honest, and vulnerable. This book is raw because she tackles grief, difficult family relationships, and her intense hate for the current administration and the direction of our country. She acknowledges her real sense of privilege and examines how to use her voice to initiate change. I was unexpectedly blown away by this book. I listened to it on audiobook and I think that made it come alive in a totally different way than it would have in hard copy. I saw a new side of Handler and have a greater respect for her now.
  • Finding Dorothy by: Elizabeth Letts (Ballantine) – Pub Date: February 12, 2019
    • Finding Dorothy is a true gem of a book you don’t want to miss! This is historical fiction at its finest – a sweet, whimsical, {mostly} happy story that had my heart from the first page. Alternating between 1939 in Hollywood, California and the late 1800s throughout the US’s midwest, this is the story behind the massive book, and eventual movie, hit The Wizard of Oz. I remember growing up and loving the movie {minus the #flyingmonkeys 😳}. It was so fun to go “behind the scenes” to see the inspiration behind that childhood memory. Historical fiction seems to center around WWII a lot of the time, so if you’re looking for a change of pace – and something a little less depressing – give this one a try. It’s truly magical and will give you all the feel-good vibes!
  • Normal People by: Sally Rooney (Hogarth) – Pub Date: April 16, 2019
    • I honestly don’t know what to say about this one. For me, it was a case of #bookstagrammademedoit…which usually works for me. But this one really didn’t. I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it – I mostly feel very meh about it. Some of my most trusted sources LOVED this one (Sarah’s Book Shelves, Katie from @basicbsguide, Tyler Goodson, Novel Visits, ItsBookTalk, Annie B. Jones), so I’m not sure where the disconnect was for me. Was the writing good? Yes. Did it keep me turning the pages? Yes. Did I care about the characters? Very much so. This book had all the makings of a book I usually fall for – great character development, deep and emotional feelings, coming-of-age, layers upon layers that need to be peeled back in order to see the full picture – so I’m very confused by my ambivalent feelings. But at the end of the day, this book really didn’t make me feel anything – not one way or the other. 🤷🏼‍♀️

I Tried, But Wasn’t Feeling (aka: DNF):

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  • 🎧 White Elephant by: Julie Langsdorf (ECCO) – Pub Date: March 26, 2019
    • I DNF’d this one around the 20%-(ish) mark. I was really into and thought this was going to be a great read for me, but when I came back to it the next day, all I could think was, “Really!??! All this about a tree?” and from that point on, I could not get reengaged. Possibly a downfall of reading it on audio – maybe the hard copy would have kept me engaged – but I just couldn’t get back into it.

Currently Reading/Listening:

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  • Miracle Creek by: Angie Kim (Sarah Chichton Books) – Pub Date: April 16, 2019
    • After reading two books that fell rather flat for me (The Bride Test and Normal People), I was in need of a page-turner. Miracle Creek is all over #bookstagram and now I know why! This courtroom drama is engaging, intense, and brilliantly executed. I cannot believe this is a debut novel! I’m about half-way through and can’t imagine it not being among my favorite reads of the year!
  • *** The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by: Melinda Gates (Flatiron) – On Shelves: April 23, 2019
    • Full review to come tomorrow on its Publishing Day!
  • Piecing Me Together by: Renée Watson (Bloomsbury) – Pub Date: February 14, 2017
    • My daughter and I are still making it through this one. We are both enjoying it very much, but the end-of-the-school year always keeps us running more than usual. We’re hoping to get some reading in time this week to get it finished!

Likely to Read Next:

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  • *** The Farm by: Joanne Ramos (Random House) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019
    • Women who are in desperate need of money go to the farm and become surrogate mothers. That’s about all I know about this novel, but I’m intrigued. With Handmaid’s Tale (which I LOVED) vibes, I’m hoping this is a good one!
  • *** Juliet the Maniac: A Novel by: Juliet Escoria (Melville House) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019
    • Again, I don’t know much, but Tyler Goodson gave it four stars and that’s enough for me to give it a shot! With themes of teenage mental illness, I’m interested in what this book has to offer!
  • Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by: Jacob Tobia (Putnam) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
    • First of all, this is a case of “The Cover Made Me Do It”…it’s incredible! But beyond that superficial aspect, I’m excited to read this emotional memoir about a “boy” that has fought gender stereotypes. I admire people that revolutionize our way of thinking and I believe Jacob Tobia will rock my world! 

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

My 2 Weeks in Books (4/15/19)

(#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.)

I intended to post last week from Arizona but it was just complicated without my laptop (I only took my iPad), so I decided to let it go…and do two weeks instead! So brace yourselves, this one is going to be jam-packed! Not only was I on vacation, but we came home to #bombcycloneparttwo, so I’ve had lots of reading time!

Last 2 Week’s Reads:

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  • 🎧 Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by: Brittney Cooper (St. Martin’s Press) – Pub Date: February 20, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
    • Dr. Brittney Cooper may not have written this book with me (a privileged white woman) in mind, but these essays taught me so much and broadened my perspectives in ways I’ve been craving for awhile now. I’ve wanted to read some well-written work from some #ownvoices and this book was more than I hoped for. Though I listened to this on audiobook (Cooper reads it herself and it’s beyond powerful), I will pick up a hard copy at some point; it’s relevant and quotable and should be #requiredreading for everyone. Eloquent Rage forced me to confront my beliefs and it will stick with me for a long time. If you haven’t read it yet, please add it to your TBR and read it soon! Every person should!
  • *** 📖 Lost Roses by: Martha Hall Kelly (Ballantine) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
    • Despite not falling in love with this one quite like I did LILAC GIRLS, it’s still a solid read. Following three women – Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka – during the First World War, the character development is good and I found myself rooting for each of them. As a story, I think this one holds up well, but as a historical fiction novel, I found it lacking. There were references to the Russian upheaval that happened, but I wanted more. There are so few historical fiction novels about WWI, and I was really hoping this one would give me a better understanding of what was going on in the world, both politically and economically. I left this book with little understanding of why the war happened. It’s a fantastic story, I just had higher expectations of learning about WWI.
  • *** 📖 When We Left Cuba by: Chanel Cleeton (Berkley) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
    • After reading Cleeton’s first book, NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA (my review here), I had very high expectations for this one. I loved the political background I gained in Havana and fell in love with Cleeton’s writing style. It’s lyrical and poetic, making you feel like a participant in the story rather than a reader. Cuba came alive in that novel and all I’ve wanted to do since reading it is walk the Malecón and see the sights for myself. I don’t know if the disconnect with this book was due to it being primarily set in America – somewhere I’m more familiar with – or the storyline, but this story wasn’t nearly as strong for me. (That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though, just not as much as Havana.) The writing is still strong – Cleeton has a gift for crafting a story that immediately sucks you in. However, I kept waiting for something to happen that somehow just felt elusive throughout the novel, like it was just waiting on the next page, but then it never appeared. I felt like the political events were glossed over in a way I didn’t feel in Havana. The story could have been just as rich with all the political happenings that occurred during that time period, so this felt like a huge missed opportunity. I think I would have loved this novel if I didn’t have Havana to compare it to. Also, for those who’ve asked, I absolutely think this novel can stand alone. There’s enough background information provided from the previous book that you won’t be lost at all! As I’ve mentioned already, this is still a strong novel, but having had the Havana experience previously, I simply prefer that one over this one. I’ll be curious to see other reviews and if I’m alone on this assessment, so if you’ve read it, let me know!
  • 🎧/📖 Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by: Cheryl Strayd (Vintage) – Pub Date: July 10, 2012 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
    • When I was on Sarah’s Book Shelves podcast a couple months ago, I mentioned that one of my reading goals was to try to get into audiobooks more. She recommended TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS and said it’s one of her favorites…and I’d have to agree! Silly me, I didn’t realize that the podcast, Dear Sugars, was what this book was about…I have listened to that podcast for awhile and I LOVE IT! Within a few minutes of listening to this book, I ordered the hard copy where it will live on my favorites shelf forever. I will be buying copies of this book to hand out to my friends…yes, it’s that good! Strayd’s advice is relevant to all and I think everyone can find nuggets of truth relative to their own situations in each of the letters Strayd answers. I’m sure my copy will be highlighted and underlined and perused many times for years to come!
  • 📖 I Miss You When I Blink: Essays by: Mary Laura Philpott (Atria) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
    • This one reminded me of TELL ME MORE by Kelly Corrigan – one of my favorite books from last year. Philpott speaks honestly about being satisfied with a life that has given her everything she’s ever wanted – a thought that, at first glance, seems ridiculous, but a sentiment I relate to very strongly. With kids passed the toddler/early childhood stage, I found many of her stories relatable. Truly, at times, I felt like I was sitting across from one of my best friends, drinking a glass of wine and discussing marriage, motherhood, and stay-at-home-momming with an honesty and realness you only find with someone you’ve shared a whole lot of life’s ups and downs with. Also, there are moments of pure hilarity as I actually lol’d many times while reading on the plane home from vacation! This book is a gem and I every mother needs this one on their home’s bookshelves!
  • *** 📖 The Parrot’s Perch by: Karen Keilt (She Writes Press) – On Shelves: April 16, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
    • What an insanely intense book this is! Thrown in Brazilian jail for an unknown crime, Keilt and her husband endured forty-five days of torture, rape, and humiliation. Even though this book was a page turner, there were many times I had to take a break from it because Keilt’s writing made it feel all too real. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it’s an incredible insight into the corruption within the Brazilian law enforcement and an on-going investigation into the human rights violations the country apparently participates in quite regularly. There is strength and resiliency within these pages, and ultimately, some hope along with tragedy. How something this absurd could happen is terrifying. I admire Keilt’s courage and perseverance. Trigger warnings: torture, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, abuse. 
  • *** 📖 Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by: Mira Jacob (One World) – Pub Date: March 26, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
    • Everybody needs to read this book! This is a graphic memoir of conversations with a six-year-old that will leave you mind-blown. Touching on race, immigration, and the current US political situation, Jacob incredibly packs a ton into a small amount of space. I felt gut-punched by the end and had to spend some time unpacking what I’d just read. It’s incredibly powerful and I know this will be a book I return to over and over again.

Currently Reading/Listening:

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  • *** 📖 The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by: Melinda Gates (Flatiron) – On Shelves: April 23, 2019
    • I’m a few chapters into this book and already completely blown away! I’m inspired and I can’t stop thinking about the social actions necessary that Gates writes about. If you’re looking for a book that honors the role women play in society and fights to help them gain empowerment, this book is a must read! I have a GIVEAWAY happening right now for an ARC of this book over on my Instagram page (@happiestwhenreading)…head over and get yourself entered!
  • 🎧 Life Will Be the Death of Me:…and You Too! by: Chelsea Handler (Spiegel & Grau) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019
    • I’m an hour into the audiobook of this and cannot stop listening. This is Chelsea Handler like we’ve never seen her before – raw, honest, and vulnerable. There’s a lot of truth bombs in here (which is a downside of listening to it on audio), but I’d highly recommend listening to this one. Handler narrates herself and she is incredible – at times, she gets choked up and it humanizes her in a way that breaks down the comedic barrier I’m so used to her having. I have a feeling this will be one of my favorites books of the year!
  • *** 📖 The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by: Helen Hoang (Berkley) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019
    • I LOVED The Kiss Quotient last year so of course I had to continue on with the series…though don’t make the same mistake I made – this is NOT a continuation of Stella and Michael’s story! I’m only about 20% in but it looks as if Hoang has created another quirky love story!
  • 📖 Piecing Me Together by: Renée Watson (Bloomsbury) – Pub Date: February 14, 2017
    • The latest book my daughter and I are reading together. We’re not too far into it but we’re both enjoying it!

I Tried, But Wasn’t Feeling (aka: DNF):

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  • 📖 It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by: Megan Devine (Sounds True) – Pub Date: January 1, 2018
    • DNF @ 15% – I love a book about grief. After losing my mama to cancer, I seek them out and almost always find something relatable in them. But this book felt repetitious of other books I’ve read previously. Maybe I’m further along in my grief journey so this one didn’t quite speak to me, but I made the decision to stop reading.
  • 📖 Warlight by: Michael Ondaatje (Knopf) – Pub Date: May 8, 2018
    • DNF @ 30% – As one of my most anticipated reads from last year, I was a little let down by this one. I think I could really enjoy it had it been at a different point of my reading life. It’s had strong reviews so I’m sure it’s just a matter of timing for me.
  • 🎧 White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by: Robin DiAngelo (Beacon Press) – Pub Date: June 26, 2018
    • I DNFd this one FOR NOW…I will pick this one back up as soon as I can get my hands on a hard copy. This one is too important and too intense for me to be able to focus on it through audiobook. What I heard is convicting and good, and I want to be able to devote more attention to it!

Likely to Read Next:

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  • Miracle Creek by: Angie Kim (Sarah Crichton Books) – On Shelves: April 16, 2019
    • I’m hearing the best things about this book! I chose it as one of my Book of the Month selections (here’s my referral link) and I don’t think I can hold off reading it much longer!
  • Normal People by: Sally Rooney (Hogarth) – On Shelves: April 16, 2019
    • Another BOTM book full of hype and recommended by some of my trusted sources. Sounds like it’ll break your heart – an element I love in a book!
  • The Ash Family by: Molly Dektar (Simon & Schuster) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019
    • I’m cautiously curious about this one. Cults? Off-the-grid living? I’m intrigued…but after seeing mixed reviews, I won’t be afraid to DNF if it’s not working for me.

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

 

 

 

My Week in Books (4/3/19)

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(#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.)

I turned 40 last week and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so special as I did this year. My uncle threw an impromptu surprise party for me and my family showered me with love. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to show them how much I love them back!

We’re off to Phoenix for the week and I couldn’t be more excited about the sunshine, cacti, and warm weather! I’m doing something new and limiting myself to only ONE physical book – the rest of my reads will be off my Kindle because a.) I have a ton of ARCs on there I need to get to, b.) I’m excited for the opportunity to read some of the books already downloaded on there that I just haven’t gotten to, and c.) I’m too lazy to lug too many books around! While the pictures of my books may not be as pretty, I’ve found the place where it’s not more important than having shoulder pain! 🤷🏼‍♀️

Last Week’s Reads:

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  • *** In Another Time by: Jillian Cantor (Harper Perennial) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
    • Everything about this book sounds like something I’d really enjoy. But sadly, I didn’t.  While I adored Max and found him to be so sweet and caring towards Hannah, I found Hannah to be wholly unlikeable. She was distracted and whiny; oftentimes, rude and ungrateful towards Max. I had a hard time understanding how she could be so oblivious to the situation Germany was in. Jews were being shipped away and yet she still insisted she and Max continued on the way they were. I wished Max would have been more forceful with her to make her wake up and realize that he had both of their best interests in mind. Also, there’s an element of time travel in the storyline that didn’t work for me at all. It felt forced and I couldn’t relate. Personally, I didn’t think it really added to the story either. I think I’m somewhat of an outlier with my opinions of this book because I’ve seen many reviews online from people that really enjoyed it! Search out some other opinions before making a final choice.
  • *** If, Then by: Kate Hope Day (Random House) – Pub Date: March 12, 2019
    • Don’t you wish covers would be an indication of a good book? Like, if the cover is beautiful and gorgeous, the book will land among your favorites. Bad cover? Terrible book. Wouldn’t that make things easier? In all seriousness, I LOVE the cover of this book, but I didn’t love the story. I found it disjointed and confusing, uninteresting and bland. I did appreciate the volcano in the story and it seemed like its own character. What’s frustrating about that is that it had better character development than all the other characters in the story! I could appreciate the premise of the story, but it just felt like way too much was going on. With a big cast of characters who each had their own issues, there was no connection. It quite literally felt like five different stories that tried to be one. Unfortunately, this one just did not work for me.
  • Beautiful Bad by: Annie Ward (Park Row) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
    • I’ve finally found the niche of mystery/thrillers that I enjoy: psychological thrillers! I read The Silent Patient last month and loved it; I felt the same about this book. I found the ending a bit predictable and rushed, but it didn’t detract from the overall story for me. I liked the characters and their motivations, I liked the interplay between them all, and I liked the conclusion. I traded between the physical book and the audio version and I liked them both a lot! It was a great way to get a lot of housework accomplished, so this book was pure guiltless reading!
  • *** #IMomSoHard by: Kristin Hensley & Jen Smedley (HarperOne) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019
    • This one made me LOL – and that’s saying something because most books tagged as “humor” mostly make me roll my eyes! Hensley and Smedley are funny and they wrote about things I’ve been thinking since I started this motherhood journey. I haven’t seen these gals YouTube page, but I’m thinking I’m about to dive down that rabbit hole! (Here’s a great episode where they’re talking about their book…turns out they’re even funnier “in person”! These gals are from Nebraska which is my state neighbor and I feel like we are long-lost soul sisters. What I wouldn’t give to hang out with these two sometime (if you’re reading this….please! I swear, I’m not psycho!) … (Ok…and a few more because rabbit hole: I Make-Up So Hard and I Junk Food So Hard…#yourewelcome!)

I Tried, But Wasn’t Feeling (aka: DNF):

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  • *** The Mastermind: Drugs, Murder, Betrayal by: Evan Ratliff (Random House) – Pub Date: January 29, 2019 (DNF @ 10%)
    • I desperately wanted to follow in Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup‘s footsteps (my review here), but I just couldn’t get into this one. I think some people will really be able to get on board with it, but I was getting way too confused and bored trying to keep this story straight. I’m gonna hand this one off to my father-in-law though because I think he’ll really enjoy it!
  • *** We Cast A Shadow by: Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World) – Pub Date: January 29, 2019 (DNF @ 24%)
    • One of the books I was most excited about this winter, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t grasp the writing style. This may be the first book I’ve read that’s satirical and I’m wondering if that’s my problem. I’m going to stick this one back on my shelves and search out a few more reviews before completely giving up on it, but for now, it’s just not for me.
  • That Time I Loved You: Stories by: Carrianne Leung (Liveright) – Pub Date: February 26, 2019 (DNF @ 44%)
    • I got about halfway through this one and just felt meh about it. I’ve made a deal with myself that if I find myself just not caring about a book/story line anymore, I would DNF it. There are just too many books on my TBR list that I’m excited about and I’m not going to force my reading anymore. This was sent to me as part of my Shelf Subscription from The Bookshelf.

Currently Reading/Listening:

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  • Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by: Brittney Cooper (St. Martin’s Press) – Pub Date: February 20, 2018
    • I’m only about twenty minutes into this one, and I am hooked! So many things have already opened up my mind and I can’t wait to continue this one and see where it leads me! I can already tell that this should be required reading for all Americans…especially white ones!

Likely to Read Next:

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  • *** When We Left Cuba by: Chanel Cleeton (Berkley) – On Shelves: April 9, 2019
    • Well, what can I say? I’ve been waiting to read this one since I got approved on NetGalley, but I really wanted to wait until I was closer to the release date. The time has finally arrived and I can’t wait to dive into this one!!
  • *** Lost Roses by: Martha Hall Kelly (Ballantine) – On Shelves: April 9, 2019
    • I loved Kelly’s first novel so I’m excited to read this next one!

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