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?

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?