My Week in Books (5/20/19)

(#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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My sweet grandma turns 84 today! I can’t wait to head over to her house to celebrate her. She and my grandpa had a big hand in raising me and our bond is so unbelievably close. I feel grateful for our relationship every day of my life and hope I can be half the woman she is someday. Strong and determined and unpersuadable, she knows what she wants and she gets it! Someday, I’ll write you guys a little backstory of this amazing woman I get to call Grandma!

Last Week’s Reads:

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*** The Children Act by: Ian McEwan (Anchor Books) – Pub Date: September 9, 2014

This book just wasn’t for me, though it has a high rating on Goodreads and plenty of others seemed to really enjoy the story. I was bored by the story and thought the in-depth tangents about the court cases was distracting and unnecessary.

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

The cover made me do it, but the story stole my heart. I truly don’t have the words to articulate the importance of this book; I will push this into everybody’s hands that I can. 

Jacob Tobia coming-of-gender story is raw, and powerful, and true. They start a conversation in this book that is begging to be had in America today. Throughout the book, they are reflective in ways I don’t usually see in books. For example, when reflecting on their relationship with their dad (who wasn’t very nice to them), they acknowledge his growth and accepted his reaction. It’s so easy to dismiss people that hurt us, but Tobias demonstrates what true growth, empathy, and compassion looks like. They show us how to mature.

Tobia is smart. Very smart. They went to Duke and that’s where they really gained their non-gender-conforming wings. They quickly became an activist for the LGBTQ+ community and gave a powerful voice to this group.

They are inspiring and I can’t wait to see more from them as they continue their work in LA. Please take the time to read this memoir. I guarantee it will leaves you changed for the better.

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

This one reminded me of a little bit of Tim Ferriss’ book, Tools of Titans, though ToT is by far better, in my opinion. It’s full of great reminders that we all know, yet need refreshed on every now and then. The only thing that bothers me about books like this are that it’s just regurgitated information. Many times, the author takes quotes from the internet or Pinterest and types them in a paragraph and calls it a book – it’s not. It’s a compilation of other people’s thoughts. There aren’t new ideas or commentary, so unless you want a coffee book table, you already know what this one has to say.

Piecing Me Together by: Renee Watson (Bloomsbury) – Pub Date: February 14, 2017

A great companion piece to a book I read earlier this year, Dear Martin (read my review here), this book tells the stories of race, friendship, privilege, and identity from a young woman’s perspective. At times, it felt like the fictional version of what I imagine Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming (read my review here), to be like.

Jade knows she has to excel in school and get good grades if she is going to break out of the poverty cycle she currently lives in. College is her only ticket out. As she navigates her high school years, she is also confronted by racial issues that make her realize the differences between her journey and her privileged classmates.

This was another read aloud with my 11-year-old. Again, it was a bit on the older side for her at times so I was glad to be there to help navigate those conversations. I appreciated the content of the book to start conversations with her to help her realize the privilege she experiences and to gain some empathy for what others may have to go though just to get a good education. We live in a rural area, so the inner city happenings aren’t something she gets a change to understand, so I’m glad this book brought some of those issues to her attention.

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

Full review coming later this week, but suffice it to say: I LOVED THIS BOOK! I think you should pre-order it if you haven’t already; you won’t be disappointed!

Currently Reading/Listening:

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

Rave, rave, rave reviews everywhere I look! Excited to get into the story more! Coming off City of Girls, this book has BIG shoes to fill!

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

Saw this one available on the Hoopla app and immediately downloaded it. I still haven’t read Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by the same author, but I know people loved it. I’m over half way through the audiobook and really loving the story, so I may have to add her first book to my TBR soon!

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

Two sisters that must overcome their differences while on a scavenger hunt road trip arranged by their by their suddenly deceased mother. One of the sisters has just been released from prison. This dysfunctional and emotionally raw story seem like a great set up for me!

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

Reading City of Girls reminding me of Big Magic – a book I previously read and loved. I decided to reread it as part of my morning routine…and in hopes for some inspiration to get back to more writing!

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

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?