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?

January 2019 Reading Wrap-up

{Thank you Pegasus Books, SJP for Hogarth, Algonquin, Random House, and NetGalley for the free books to review. All opinions are my own.}

Here’s my Reading Wrap-Up for January!

Book suggestions by mood:

  • For those that love immersing themselves into new worlds: The Oyster Thief by: Sonia Faruqi
  • For those who love WWII historical fiction: We Were the Lucky Ones by: Georgia Hunter
  • For those that would like a humanized look into the immigration debate: Lucky Boy by: Shanthi Sekaran
  • For those that like creepy, yet realistic, vibes: The Dreamers by: Karen Thompson Walker
  • For those that like historical fiction but want something other than WWII: The Paragon Hotel by: Lyndsay Faye
  • For those that love a slow meditation on life: Waiting for Eden by: Elliot Ackerman
  • For those that love a modern-retelling of a classic: Unmarriageable by: Soniah Kamal
  • For those that enjoy a nonfiction book that reads like John Grisham: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by: John Carreyrou
  • For those that want a quick, light, and easy read: The Dinner List by: Rebecca Serle
  • For those that want a book they can’t stop thinking about: Golden Child by: Claire Adam
  • For those that like to cheer for the underdog: Sugar Run by: Mesha Maren
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January 2019 Reading Wrap-Up (Not pictured: Sugar Run, The Dreamers, and Unmarriageable)

Even though there were problematic things to me throughout – I didn’t really like the protagonist; I was disappointed in the female characters and thought they were all mean and vindictive, and I hated that not one female character was kind, supportive, or nice – yet I continued to read and, at times, I couldn’t put it down. Despite the things I didn’t like – even major things -, there was also so much about it that I did like. Ultimately, I was intrigued enough to overlook my grievances and to see it through to the end. It wasn’t an overwhelming good – or bad – book. I appreciate books like this because they force me to contemplate them for days to come, trying to determine where I ultimately land. They’re also the trickiest for me to recommend because…🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️

Why it took me so long to read this one, we’ll never know. But after listening to Sarah’s Book Shelves podcast last week where she interviewed the author, Georgia Hunter, the book shot to the top of my TBR, and I’m so glad it did. It’s a lovely book that records one Jewish family’s miraculous journey through the various atrocities of WWII. My own grandmother lived through many of the same horrors, so the heartbreak felt personal – like Hunter has put my family’s story to the page. I appreciated every single page of this book and I’m so glad I finally picked it up.

Two worlds collide when Soli, an undocumented woman from Mexico, finds herself in a detention center awaiting deportation. Her child, Ignacio, is placed in the temporary care of the Reddy’s, an Indian-American couple that decides to become foster parents after many years of struggling with infertility. Both mothers love the child and want to raise him as her own…but what makes a mother? And who does the child belong to? This book is heartbreaking and timely. It’s so well done; Sekaran presents both sides without judgment or blame and really forces the reader to think through the issues. With themes of immigration, adoption, and infertility, this book would make a wonderful book club selection!

I love a book that can capture you from the first page and hold your attention until the very end. I couldn’t put THE DREAMERS down! A strange illness takes over an isolated college town in Southern California. As the number of people infected with the illness increases, the National Guard comes in and establishes a quarantine. What made this book enjoyable for me was the author’s writing style. Clear and concise, there were no wasted words. Told from various points of view, the mystery of the illness kept me reading to find out what was behind the mystery. I wish the story would have been wrapped up a little better and I wouldn’t have been left with so many questions; however, if you’re looking for something quick and easy to read, pick this one up and give it a try…I have no doubt it will be one of the books that gets the most buzz this winter!

A historical thriller that has themes of racism and violence, love and loyalty. I loved this story, especially the characters. Strong and well-developed, I was immediately invested in their stories – individually, and as a whole. Told in alternating timelines, this story primarily takes place in Portland, Oregon during the 1920s. I knew nothing about the KKK’s overwhelming presence in that area or the foundational beginnings of that city. In fact, Portland’s KKK division was the biggest one west of the Mississippi. The Paragon Hotel, though fictional for the purposes of this book, was also based on a real hotel in Portland that was a sanctuary for Black people within this overwhelmingly white city. Learning these small details, along with the fascinating characters and the mystery the book is centered around made this an unforgettable story. Fair warning: the cadence is difficult to grasp and can take a good while to get the hang of and can be a bit distracting.

This book made so many people’s Top 10 last year, so I knew I had to read it! It’s short – almost more of a novella – and I cannot believe the punch it packs in such a short amount of time. It’s a beautiful meditation on death, love, loyalty, guilt, and yearning. This book’s premise is unlike anything I’ve read before and Elliot Ackerman masterfully delivers. You’ll want to add this one to your TBR soon, if you haven’t read it already!

Unmarriageble, the latest retelling of an old classic, Pride and Prejudice. It takes place in Pakistan and it was fun getting an inside look into another culture. I liked the characters (and even vehemently disliked a few, which keeps things fun!), and I thought the emphasis on class importance between the two societies parralled quite well. A few the characters were strong, empowered, and independent females (somewhat frowned upon in the Pakastani culture) which I greatly appreciated. I also found the men that could handle a woman with thoughts and ambitions of her own, without feeling threatened, refreshing. If you’re like me and the thought of reading #classics sounds kind of boring (**gasp! I know!!**), then I think you’d enjoy this book. I certainly know I’d rather gain my insights to classic literature through these more-relevant-to-modern-times novels than through the original books themselves.

I mean, wow! That was quite a ride through fraud, lies, and manipulation. Carreyrou does a phenomenal job of taking the reader along a journey that could have been quite confusing. With lots of medical and legal jargon and technicalities, numerous people who played key roles in the development of the story over 15-years, and an immense amount of information, this non-fiction book read like a fast-paced John Grisham novel. A clear favorite from last year, this book made many Top 10 lists and is in production to become a movie, starring Jennifer Lawerence as Elizabeth Holmes (release date unknown).

If you could have dinner with five people (dead or alive), who would you choose? I saw this book everywhere last year and wasn’t initially intrigued by the synopsis, but after reading it, I was captured in so many unexpected ways. Not just the nostalgic idea of spending time with loved ones who are already gone, but also by the healing that could come from such a meeting. I’ve learned that no matter how good a relationship is, there are still so many regrets and questions that remain when a person leaves us forever. So the idea of getting to sit down again and heal those hurts and get those questions answered made this book such a good read for me. I enjoyed it so much!

So oddly, this book did what I LOVE books to do: made me mad, f’ed up my thinking, made me evaluate myself and what I think I’d do in a given situation, and WILL NOT leave my brain. For that, I LOVED it. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot understand any of it. It’s hard to talk about this book without revealing some major spoilers, but let me just say that I predict this will be one of the buzziest books of the year! It’s well done – I felt transported straight to the Caribbean country of Trinidad during the 1980s with the poetic descriptions of the land and food. I loved Claire Adam’s writing and I was sucked into this story from the first page. However, by the end, I was so angry and I was left wanting SO MUCH MORE from the story. It didn’t end with a pretty little bow, and that’s ok! I LOVE when authors take risks and force us to meditate on our thoughts. I’ve flip-flopped on my opinions of this story so many times…and that makes, for me, a GOOD BOOK! I also think these open-ended questions will make this book a fantastic book club selection!

This book has everything I love in a story – slow, methodical writing; deep, insightful character study; and a healthy dose of drama. After Jodi is unexpectedly released from prison after 18 years, she longs to return to her home – a small town set in the mountains of West Virginia. On parole and desperate to start a new life, she is immediately confronted with troubles. From the girl she falls in love with to dealing with addiction problems, some people are just destined for a hard life. And no matter what Jodi’s intentions are behind her choices, she always ends up on the wrong side of them. I was amazed that this was Maren’s debut novel. Her writing is seasoned and lyrical; I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

What did you read and LOVE in January?