Category Archives: Books

January Books

February 2, 2019


I read nine books in January! Two were while I was traveling and three were during the 24 in 48 readathon. I’m overall pretty pleased with my reading choices this month. All but one of those are books I acquired in the last few weeks, which is crazy (I spent a lot of money on books), and ironically the one I bought a few years ago was my least favorite. Okay, on to the books!


The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

rating: ★

Summary: When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…

Review: I read this on a bus trip from Limerick to Dublin Airport. I liked it but didn’t love it, so it got three stars from me. It’s about a young woman who gets proposed to on the big screen at Dodger Stadium, but she’s totally not expecting it and not really all that interested in her boyfriend to begin with. She gets rescued by a brother and sister and ultimately finds herself really interested in the brother. They start dating, but she’s really hesitant to rebound so soon. As an aside, her best friend owns a cupcake shop, which seems so fun!

I liked this book for its diversity and portrayal of friendships and a realistic, fun love story. I didn’t like how cheesy and inauthentic it felt in terms of Los Angeles – sure, people complain about going to the other side of the city, but it wouldn’t stop you from seeing your own brother for months at a time!

How I got this book: I bought it at LAX on the way to Ireland.


A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

rating: ★★★★

Summary: The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage. After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

Review: The very first book I remember crying over was by Jodi Picoult: My Sister’s Keeper. I wept and wept when I read that. Nothing will ever top it for me, but this book came close in terms of questions of faith and morality and the right thing to do. A gunman comes into a women’s center similar to Planned Parenthood and holds people hostage. It’s very powerful, with character backstories like only Jodi can do. It didn’t grip me like some of her other books (some of which have kept me awake at night thinking about them) and the backwards narrative was confusing at times. But I would recommend this for sure.

How I got this book: I bought it at Dublin Airport on the way to LA.


The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

rating: ★★★★★

Summary: In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.

Review: This book. Wow. I have so many deep feelings about it. In fact, I read it as a library book but immediately ordered a copy of my own so I can convince everyone to read it. It’s told through dual narratives: Yale is a young gay man living in Chicago in 1985, and everyone around him is dying of AIDS. In 2015, Fiona is searching for her adult daughter, who’s run away. I’m a bit embarrassed to say I had never thought about the AIDS crisis in such simple, human terms until I read this book. Definitely, highly, absolutely recommend.

How I got this book: I borrowed it from the library, and then loved it so much that I immediately bought my own copy.


One Day in December by Josie Silver

rating: ★★★★

Summary: Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic… and then her bus drives away.

Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

Review: I read all of One Day in December in one day in January and absolutely loved it. After hitting pause on two books (one I wasn’t loving and one that felt emotionally heavy) this was the perfect read. It wasn’t as seasonal as I expected, which made it great to read even after Christmas. It starts in December but takes place all year.

Laurie is on a bus when she makes eye contact with a man sitting at the bus stop, and immediately feels connected to him. She needs to know more – but then the bus drives away. What follows is a ten year saga of love and heartbreak and friendship and life changes. I love how realistically this book depicted female friendship and the highs and lows of relationships. I thought this was a really charming book and I definitely recommend it!

How I got this book: Book of the Month.


A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

rating: ★★★★★

Summary: As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride. What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best? 

Review: This book, this book, this book. My friend Hannah told me to pick it up and then immediately said she was worried she had overhyped it. She didn’t.

It was a slow, deep, thoughtful story about a Muslim Indian family living in California. The parents struggle to raise their American-born kids in a culture that’s so different from their own. The book deals with that clash and many others. It starts at the oldest daughter’s wedding and then jumps back in time, starting when the kids are very young. It was easy for me to see myself in the oldest daughter: smart, eager to please, trying to do the right thing. This book is a bit slow to get into (and I even set it aside for a week) but once you get going you will love it. Highly recommend.

How I got this book: Bought it at Barnes and Noble.


The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

rating: ★★★★★

Summary: One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster.

Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

Review: In a college town outside of Los Angeles, a girl wakes up to find her roommate in a deep sleep that won’t end. And then the sleep spreads to other people on the floor. First two, and then three. And then it becomes an outbreak, an unidentified virus spreading through the small town. This book got me thinking all sorts of deep thoughts about life and family and love and loyalty. It reminded me a bit of Station Eleven, naturally because of the outbreak plot but also because of the emotions present in this book. Highly recommend.

How I got this book: Borrowed from a friend!


The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

rating: ★★

Summary: In the male-dominated field of animation, Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses are a dynamic duo, the friction of their differences driving them: Sharon, quietly ambitious but self-doubting; Mel, brash and unapologetic, always the life of the party. Best friends and artistic partners since the first week of college, where they bonded over their working-class roots and obvious talent, they spent their twenties ensconced in a gritty Brooklyn studio. Working, drinking, laughing. Drawing: Mel, to understand her tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.

Now, after a decade of striving, the two are finally celebrating the release of their first full-length feature, which transforms Mel’s difficult childhood into a provocative and visually daring work of art. The toast of the indie film scene, they stand at the cusp of making it big. But with their success come doubt and destruction, cracks in their relationship threatening the delicate balance of their partnership. Sharon begins to feel expendable, suspecting that the ever-more raucous Mel is the real artist. During a trip to Sharon’s home state of Kentucky, the only other partner she has ever truly known—her troubled, charismatic childhood best friend, Teddy—reenters her life, and long-buried resentments rise to the surface, hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.

Review: I got this book from Book of the Month in February 2017, nearly two years ago. I never got around to reading it, and I finally picked it up this month. I got more than halfway through and wasn’t loving it, so I set it down (trying to do more of that this year!) for a while.

I picked it back up a few weeks later to finish it off, but quite honestly I still hated it. The book didn’t get better for me. I can see why people like it but the whole thing felt sad and depressing to me. It wasn’t easy for me to care about any of the characters. I did like the aspects of unhealthy friendships, because that’s very real, but that was it for me. Just not the right book or the right timing for me!

How I got this book: Book of the Month.


Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

rating: ★★★★

Summary: Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.

Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.

Review: I really liked this story about a woman running for political office in the 2018 midterm elections. Charlotte Walsh is trying to become the first female senator of Pennsylvania, but to do so she needs to change her family’s life and sweep a lot under the rug. It deals with ambition, politics, relationships, marriage, and friendship. I tend to find books like this cheesy or too reminiscent of the 2016 election, but this one was all about making a difference and shooting for your goals. I liked it a lot!

How I got this book: Purchased it from Book Outlet.


Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

rating: ★★★★

Summary: At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

Review: I loved this book. Hannah Martin is 29 years old and moving back to Los Angeles as she tries to figure out her life. On her first night back, she has a choice to make. That choice plays out with both decisions in parallel storylines in this book. What is fate and how much can one tiny choice change our path? What is actually meant to happen? I loved how there were both good and bad things in both storylines, and it was hard to pick which one I liked more! I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if I went to a different college or moved to a different city, because my life would certainly be very different. But this book shows how even seemingly tiny choices can have big effects.

How I got this book: Purchased it from Barnes and Noble.


I also tried to read A Separation by Katie Kitamura, but stopped after 75 pages. The writing style and never ending introspection weren’t for me.

So that means nine books to start off 2019!

In total this month:

Total number of books: nine
Number of fiction books: nine
Number of nonfiction books: zero
Books by people who are not white dudes: nine
Total number of books this year: nine

A RAD Reading Challenge

January 24, 2019

It’s a well established fact that I love reading challenges. I love the idea of getting myself to read outside my usual boundaries. Finishing reading challenges, however, is another story. I feel like my interest usually wanes a third of the way into the year, and then I forget about them entirely. That’s fine if it works for you, but I’m an enneagram 3 and I’m all about completing the goals. That’s why this year I’m going to focus on just one.

Enter the RAD Reading Challenge. It’s the sole challenge I’m committing to completing for the year. Last year’s challenge was to read all the Harry Potter books; this year’s is to complete this challenge. (Find more of my bookish resolutions in my 2019 reading goals post!)

I think the key to completing challenges like this is preplanning a few options for books that would fit the selected categories. It’s nice to give yourself some flexibility, but I always find that if there’s a book on a list, I’m much more likely to actually read it. In that vein, thought it would be fun to share some of the books I’m planning to read for this challenge.

a book of poetry

I’ve had Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur for two years now, and I’d love to read it for real.

a classic you didn’t read in school

Looking at this list of high school classics from Goodreads gave me serious flashbacks, some positive and some negative. I can’t pick one right now, but it’ll be something from this list. Any recommendations for me?

a memoir from someone you admire

This is for sure going to be Becoming by Michelle Obama. We’re reading it for book club next month, and I cannot wait to start it. I’ve heard such amazing things.

a fun or beautiful children’s book

I think for this one I’ll head to the library and pick up something that looks like it fits the bill!

a book with a cover in your favorite color

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren is a mix of my two favorite colors: pink and navy! Definitely bought this because the plot sounded good but also because the cover was so pretty.

a book by an author who shares a name with you

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson sounds pretty wild + good.

a book about food or a cookbook

This is the one that I’m stuck on and I would love some recommendations! Nothing is coming to mind right now.

a book blowing up your insta feed

This will likely be Where the Crawdads Sing, which was everywhere a few weeks ago. I don’t see it as much lately, but considering that I bought it because of its popularity on my feed, it absolutely qualifies.

a book published in the year you were born

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides has been on my “someday” list for a long time, and it was published in 1993!

a book your bff recommends

I just picked up The Likeness from Book Outlet on Bri’s raving recommendation, so it’s likely going to be that.

I’m looking forward to reading these books! Are you doing any fun reading challenges this year?

12 Bookish Resolutions (aka 2019 Reading Goals)

January 11, 2019

After not quite meeting my reading goals for 2018, I’m excited for a fresh start to set some new reading-related goals for this year!

This year, I will…

Read 100 books. I’m back with a second attempt at this goal. I know it’s doable if I keep up the pace of reading.

Read 60 books I own. Like many book lovers, I’m incredibly guilty of buying new books in favor of reading the ones I own. I’ll be moving some time this spring, and I don’t want to move alllll those books again.

Participate in the RAD Reading Challenge. I love Rachel’s blog and I’m excited to participate in this with her.

Read at least 10 books from the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge list. I want to say I will complete the whole list, but I’m not sure that’s realistic with my other goals! But the secret goal is to complete the whole list.

Keep tracking my reading and to-be-read lists. I’m going to do this this year with Goodreads and a (yet-to-be-created) spreadsheet. This will help with my next goal, which is…

Read 75% books by women and people of color. I had this goal last year and I fell behind on the data aspect of this, so I have no clue how I did.

Keep up with book club. I started a book club in the fall of 2017, and life events have kept me from going the last few months. I want to get back to it, because I love it.

Get my monthly reviews up on the blog in the first week of the month. Last year I wasn’t great about this, and it led to a backup, which for me leads to inaction.

Post quarterly reading updates. I love writing reviews, but I also want to write deeper thoughts about a few books I’ve especially loved over the last quarter.

Keep posting on my bookstagram. I’m loving the community over there, and I want to focus on interacting with people who love books as much as I do! It’s so fun to have people to talk about books with, and I get lots of ideas for books to try

Use the library more. I want to check the availability at the library first instead of deferring to online book shopping.

Stop reading books I’m not loving. I’m awful at this because I feel so guilty and I want to be able to count the book in my yearly book goal. That’s dumb and life is short and I should only be reading books I love.

What are your bookish resolutions for 2019?

My Favorite Books of 2018

January 6, 2019

I read 78 books in 2018, more than I’ve ever read before. Some books I loved, some I hated, and some were fine but forgettable. Today, I’m sharing the ones that have stuck with me. They may not be the best books of all time or ones that will win any literary awards, but here are ones I can’t stop thinking about and hope to reread one day.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies

This list is in no particular order, but this book absolutely gets the top spot. This book has everything: it’s the saga of one man’s life growing up in Ireland, picking up with him every 7 years to see what he’s up to. It shows how Ireland’s cultural attitudes changed over time and how Cyril adapts to them. It stuck with me because it’s gutting and heartwrenching, but so, so good.. It made me happy and it made me cry. It’s one of those books that only comes around once in a while.

Beartown

This book stuck with me because it’s like Friday Night Lights, but set in Sweden instead of Texas, and with hockey instead of football. It’s the story of how one small town’s obsession with its youth hockey team is a positive force for so many, but ultimately destructive in other ways. It’s about family and growing up and becoming an adult. The emotion in this book is unparalleled. I loved it.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

This book about the Golden State Killer was published after the author’s death, and shortly after that, the killer was captured. This book stuck with me because it’s like a cross between a novel and a textbook: the depictions of the killer breaking into houses are so vivid from people’s memories that it was easy at times to forget these things actually happened. It’s the first true crime book I’ve read in a long time that I wasn’t able to stop thinking about.

The Great Alone

I have recommended this book to everyone I know. Kristin Hannah is incredible. This book is about a teenage girl that moves to Alaska on the whim of her father, a Vietnam vet who struggles with PTSD. Everything is fine at first, but then it gets closer to winter, and trouble strikes. This book stuck with me because evokes such specific feelings. I felt the cold of Alaska, I felt the stress of being in that situation, and I felt stressed right along with the characters.

The Immortalists

This book, a story of four siblings who visit a fortune teller to find out the date of their deaths, ripped me apart. It stuck with me because the siblings all approached their lives differently after the meeting, some in healthy ways and others in healthy ways. It made me wonder if I would want to know the date of my death if I had the opportunity. I feel like I wouldn’t, but I can see how knowing would make me concentrate on what I really cared about. It’s helpful to remember that any day COULD be the last day, and I should be living in a positive way as if it is.

#HarreadPotter: December 2018 Books

January 5, 2019

The two books I read in December were Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Both were great. That’s a boring blog post, so instead I’m going to talk about my experience of reading all seven Harry Potter books this year.

For years I intended to read the series in its entirety but never quite got around to it. Truthfully, I’d usually get stuck on the first or second book. Those are the ones I’d read the most, and definitely the quickest reads, which is why it’s ironic that I’d get stuck there. I just didn’t want to read them for the 15th time, and I’d stop.

But this year I kept going and pushed through, and it was totally worth it.

In re-reading the series, I got to rediscover the characters I grew up with. I was seven when I read the first book. I don’t think it needs to be said how important the Harry Potter series has been to my development.

I learned that my favorite book is no longer Order of the Phoenix but rather Goblet of Fire or Deathly Hallows. I learned that the comments made after the 2016 election about how the books are alarmingly applicable to current times are true. I learned that I still want to be Hermione when I grow up. I learned that this series is as applicable to me now at 25 as it was when I was 10 years old. I get different things out of it now, but I love it just the same. I hope it’ll be as applicable in another 15 years.

I know I’m romanticizing a book series, but it’s something I can’t help. It’s part of who I am, and I’m happy for that to be the case.

I won’t be doing another reread in 2019, but if you’re on the fence about doing one, I definitely recommend it. My practical tips:

Start early, and keep going. I ended up reading the last two books in the last two weeks of the year. I was reading the last one on the car ride home on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. I made it in the end, but I’d have preferred to avoid that if possible.

Plan it out. If you’ll need to borrow the books from a friend or a library, give yourself plenty of time to get a copy. You don’t want to be stuck on December 29th looking for the last book.

Don’t read them all in a row – or do! There’s no right way to go about doing this. Maybe you want to immerse yourself in the world, or maybe you want to sprinkle the books in amidst your other books for the year. Whatever way you choose, I hope you enjoy the ride!

November 2018 Books

December 14, 2018

So it’s pretty clear I’m not gonna meet my reading goal for this year. To be honest, I’m surprisingly okay with it. 100 books in a year was an ambitious goal, and I hoped I’d meet it, but unless I want to read 24 books in the two weeks, it’s not happening. My hope for December is to read the last two Harry Potter books, and if I read anything extra on top of that, it’s great.

If you had asked me my favorite Harry Potter book a year ago, it would’ve been Order of the Phoenix. Now that I’ve reread it, I cannot tell you what I was thinking for all those years. This is a good book, but it’s fairly boring a lot of the time. It perfectly captures what it’s like to be 15, and I absolutely understand why Harry is so angry throughout the book, but I just didn’t want to read it. If we’re totally honest, this book is the reason I didn’t get through many books this month – I just felt like I was reading it for so long. S

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

This is a first person recollection of Addie’s life growing up in early 20th century Boston as the daughter of Jewish Russian immigrants. She’s being interviewed by her granddaughter for a school project and telling her granddaughter all about her life. I borrowed it from my mom, who thought I would like it. It’s a cute read, and I loved that I recognized a number of the places mentioned. Critical reviews on Goodreads have mentioned that numerous historical events have been sanitized, and I sort of agree with them, but I also thought it was just a fun book. It’s definitely sad at times, but overall I loved how hopeful it felt, and how it showed that women throughout history can be the same despite all our differences. (Cheese alert much?)

I wrote my senior high school thesis on female bullying in literature. This book feels like the opposite of that. It’s all about how female friendships shape our lives. In some cases they’re stronger than our relationships with our significant others, more enduring and solid, and this book did a great job of conveying that. It’s a bit more research-focused than I was expecting, but I found I really enjoyed it. This book had me texting my friends with goosebumps on my arms to tell them how much I adore them.

Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer

I don’t want to say too much about this book; I think it’s better if you just read it. Briefly, it’s about a young man who wants to be a published author but is a terrible writer, and all the awful things he does to get to the top. Parts of it flat out shocked me because of how ruthless he is. I picked this immediately from Book of the Month when I saw who the author was – you may recall that I deeply loved The Heart’s Invisible Furies. This book is different, and not quite as engaging, but still really interesting. Also a lot shorter, if that’s your thing 🙂

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

I bought this for myself for my birthday in March because I wanted to buy a book that would make me laugh. This nearly qualified. It’s not laugh out loud funny but it’s definitely worth a read, ideally if you can get it at low cost. My favorite parts of this book of autobiographical essays were the ones about how weird moving to Los Angeles and seeing just how damn hard Anna had to work to get where she is. And yes, she was the best friend in Twilight.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

In total this month:

Total number of books: five
Number of fiction books: three
Number of nonfiction books: two
Books by people who are not white dudes: four
Total number of books this year: seventy six

October 2018 Books

November 29, 2018

Ridiculously late with this post, but for the sake of continuity and my desire to keep up with reviewing, here are all the books I read in October! I’m obviously once again trying a new format – I can’t seem to decide how I want these posts to look. Maybe the only constant is that they’re constantly changing.

One of my main reading goals for this year is to finally complete the Harry Potter reread I’ve been intending on doing for years. This was the furthest I’ve made it in a long time, which feels like a victory. My childhood copy of this book split into three parts because one, it was so heavy, and two, we read it so frequently. It always feels difficult for me to review the Harry Potter books objectively because they feel like such a part of the fabric of my life, but it’s safe to say that I still really like this one.

I’ve read a number of Backman’s books (I read A Man Called Ove last December and Beartown earlier this summer) and this was by far my least favorite. It was fine as a story, looking back, but it just didn’t grip me like the others did. It’s about a woman who separates from her husband and, terrified that she’ll become isolated and no one will notice she’s dead when she eventually dies, decides to get a job that she has to show up to every day. She ends up moving to a run-down town to care of kids, inadvertently becoming a soccer coach in the process. You’ll like it if you enjoy books that are character driven or set in small towns.

Ugh. I swear this book halted my reading for over two weeks just because it took so. damn. long. to read. I read the book jacket and expected one thing, and what I got was a different thing entirely, though not in a positive way. I just didn’t enjoy it whatsoever and I really don’t recommend it. It reminded me of Jodi Picoult in that there was a drama and a mystery and it was very focused on the town’s issues, but her stuff is much better.

I liked this book! I preordered it last year and finally got around to reading it. I always thought it was more about actual books, but instead it’s about viewing people through the lens of different personality tests. If you know that you’re an INFJ and an Enneagram 3 and a [insert personality test of your choice here], you’ll like this book. If you’ve always wondered what the heck those tests are talking about, you’ll like this book too. If you’re in the first camp I don’t think you’ll learn many new things, but you’ll like having your feelings confirmed.

I thought this was a nice book. It was various writers sharing their thoughts + memories of Paris. I studied abroad there nearly five (!) years ago, and I like to say that I’m gonna be emotional about it forever. This collection of memories made me miss my time there a lot. I also don’t think it was anything particularly special – I’d be much more likely to recommend A Paris All Your Own, which I apparently never blogged about.

I read this after watching the movie earlier this year. It was….fine? I felt like I learned much more about Orthodox Jewish culture from reading this book rather than watching the movie. I have complicated feelings about sexuality and religion and the depiction of them in media. This was a good story and it made me sad and I learned a lot and I was left feeling a bit “ok now what?” at the end, so make of that what you will!

In total this month:

Total number of books: six
Number of fiction books: five
Number of nonfiction books: one
Books by people who are not white dudes: four
Total number of books this year: seventy one

September 2018 Books

October 2, 2018

I am absolutely at least ten books behind my Goodreads reading goal of 100 books in 2018, but not stressing about it yet. This month I read five books, but two of them were really big and previously intimidated me. I had almost entirely positive feelings about the books this month, and one was a strong standout for sure.

I’m skipping the ~official summaries this month to make things easier on myself, but if you super duper miss them, let me know and I can bring them back.


The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

I could talk about this book all day.  I got it from Book of the Month last August and was intimidated by the length, so I never picked it up. Something compelled me to do so at the beginning of September, and I am endlessly thankful I did. Once I got into it I couldn’t stop reading it. I’m still thinking about it, honestly.

It’s the story of Cyril Avery, a boy who was adopted as a baby by a couple who give him a home, but not much else. His father repeatedly reminds him that he’s not a ‘real Avery’ and insists on calling him his adopted son, even through Cyril’s adulthood.

The story starts after World War II and begins with Cyril’s birth mother leaving her family in rural Ireland and heading to Dublin to start a new life. From there, it picks up every seven years throughout Cyril’s entire life. I went into this not knowing much about it, other than that John Boyne was Irish. It deals with Ireland’s relationship to the Catholic Church, fiercely loyal but also complicated, about the country’s attitudes toward sexuality, and about growing up and finding a home. It’s a long book but an incredible one, and you’ll absolutely see it on my top ten list at the end of the year. I don’t frequently reread books, but I will certainly read this one again.

RECOMMENDED FOR: anyone who loves a sweeping, heartbreaking and heartwarming life story


The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory

I bought this book at a tiny bookstore north of San Francisco last September. I went to visit my friend Mallory for Labor Day Weekend and because she’s a great friend and knows what I’m about, she took me to a bookstore, where I found this and couldn’t resist.

When I was a kid, my absolute favorite book was The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory. I was obsessed with her historical fiction take on the life of Katherine of Aragon, King Henry IV’s first wife. (Did you know she was married to his brother for a short time before she married him?)

This book isn’t quite as good as The Constant Princess and I know far less about Lady Jane Grey and her sisters (whom the novel centers on), but I still enjoyed reading it. It was a bit too long for my taste (550 pages!) and felt like it dragged on forever in parts. I’m not sure how historically accurate it is, and there’s plenty of Amazon reviews saying it’s not, but I think if you really like this time period you could check it out.

RECOMMENDED FOR: fans of the Tudors and historical fiction


The Elizas by Sara Shepard

I bought this on a whim at the LA Times Festival of Books this April, when I attended a panel about books turning into tv shows. Sara Shepard wrote the Pretty Little Liars books, and I wanted a chance to meet her and tell her how I’d met some of my best friends in college watching the show, so I bought her book and got it signed. (She did not receive the comment with the enthusiasm I felt it deserved, but that’s okay.)

This is a mystery/thriller story, but I didn’t think it was a very good one. It’s composed of a dual narrative: one of a woman in the real world, and one that comes from the book she’s about to publish. Things and events from the book start to appear in her real life, blurring the lines between what’s real and what’s not. I got the sense that it was supposed to be unsettling, but rather I just found it all a little bit weird. 

RECOMMENDED FOR: fans of thrillers and diehard Pretty Little Liars fans


Dreaming in Irish by Sarah-Jane McKenna

I received this book from my freelance client in order to write a review of it for the website. It’s the first novel by this author, who writes under a pen name.

In researching this book, I saw it described as a ‘cozy mystery’. I don’t see it as a mystery as much as a story of uncovering family history. The death of her sister and her brother-in-law sends Kate Doyle back to Brooklyn to take care of her young niece and the rest of her family. As she establishes a new normal, she finds a family heirloom in her mother’s basement and decides to learn its story. This quest will eventually take her to Ireland.

That summary sounds boring and there were a few places where this story lags, but the real standouts were the characters. I loved each member of Kate’s family, especially her niece Molly. It was 

RECOMMENDED FOR: fans of character-driven novels, genealogy and Ireland


I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

As a member of the book launch team, I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of this book to share on social media. I loved what I read in August, but I finally got a chance to sit down and read the full book. It’s a collection of stories about reading, books, libraries, and the book loving lifestyle.

I loved the chapter about confessing literary sins. (Mine is that I’ve never read Pride & Prejudice!) I also loved the chapter where Anne talks about the books that made her who she is today – I’m making a note to write a post about that for my own books! Finally, there’s a great chapter where Anne talks about how she used to live literally next door to a library and how that made her use it all the time. This is a short collection (it took me just under an hour to read in its entirety), but it’s a really good one.

RECOMMENDED FOR: book lovers and anyone who loves a book lover


In total this month:

Total number of books: five
Number of fiction books: four
Number of nonfiction books: one
Books by people who are not white dudes: four
Total number of books this year: sixty-five

August 2018 Books

September 10, 2018


This was a weird month for reading! Some months I read one or two books, some months I read fifteen. I’m up to 61 out of my goal of 100 this year, as of this writing. Yet this month I didn’t pick up a book til I was more than halfway through the month!

That said, the two books I did manage to read this month I really liked!

BAD BLOOD: SECRETS AND LIES IN A SILICON VALLEY STARTUP by John Carreyrou
★★★


In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.


I read this for book club and I liked it! The story is pretty crazy, all things considered. It’s wild to think about how many people Holmes managed to manipulate. Because there were so many players involved and it detailed the experiences of many of them, I felt like this book was repetitive and thus a bit too long. There’s a certain point at which I get that this person was shady and manipulative; I don’t need more info to back that up! That said, I really respect that this was written by the journalist who broke the story. Just this week I heard that Theranos is dissolving as a company, so we definitely read this at the right time!

BEARTOWN
by Fredrick Backman
★★★★★


People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.


I only have big feelings about this book! It’s for sure going to be on my top 10 list at the end of the year. It’s like Friday Night Lights but with hockey and set in Sweden. If you’ve watched FNL, though, you know that it’s about so much more than football; it’s about family and love and growing up and all those crucial things that make us happy.

When I started this, I forgot that the author is Swedish and the book had been translated; it helps to remember this when they start talking about moving across the pond to Canada and playing in the NHL. That’s my American bias absolutely showing but I wanted to point it out! I definitely want to read this one again sometime.


In total this month:

Total number of books: two
Number of fiction books: one
Number of nonfiction books: one
Books by people who are not white dudes: zero
Total number of books this year: sixty

July 2018 Books

September 8, 2018

I’m wildly late with this post, but I’m writing it anyway for consistency’s sake! Here’s the books I read in July:

SHE REGRETS NOTHING
by Andrea Dunlop
★★★


When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.

Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? 


I liked this book okay! I read it because I saw it on Instagram, and I’m glad that I borrowed it from the library, because I think I would have been more frustrated if I spent money on it. The cover is gorgeous, but like The Queen of Hearts, that was my favorite part of it. It was fun to step into Laila’s world, so different than mine, but it was hard for me to like any of the characters.


PLAYING WITH MATCHES
by Hannah Orenstein
★★★★★


Sasha Goldberg has a lot going for her: a recent journalism degree from NYU, an apartment with her best friend Caroline, and a relationship that would be amazing if her finance-bro boyfriend Jonathan would ever look up from his BlackBerry. But when her dream career falls through, she uses her family’s darkest secret to land a job as a matchmaker for New York City’s elite at the dating service Bliss.

Despite her inexperience, Sasha throws herself into her new career, trolling for catches on Tinder, coaching her clients through rejection, and dishing out dating advice to people twice her age. She sets up a TV exec who wanted kids five years ago, a forty-year-old baseball-loving virgin, and a consultant with a rigorous five-page checklist for her ideal match.

Sasha hopes to find her clients The One, like she did. But when Jonathan betrays her, she spirals out of control—and right into the arms of a writer with a charming Southern drawl, who she had previously set up with one of her clients. He’s strictly off-limits, but with her relationship on the rocks, all bets are off.

I wrote a full post about this one here!


DUMPLIN’
by Julie Murphy
★★★★★


Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does.

I read about this one on #bookstagram and knew I needed to check it out. I loved this story because self-proclaimed “fat girl” Willowdean has always been comfortable in her skin, even when people tell her she shouldn’t be. But then she develops a crush on a boy who somehow likes her back, and she starts to doubt herself. This features beauty pageants and new friends and old friends and, unexpectedly, Dolly Parton. I really liked it.⠀


LEAH ON THE OFFBEAT
by Becky Albertalli
★★★★


When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

After I watched Love, Simon (and read the book it’s based on immediately after I got home) I kept saying that I wanted to know more about Leah, Simon’s long-term best friend. Enter this sequel that’s all about Leah. Leah is bisexual and hasn’t been able to find the right way to tell her friends – not even Simon, who she knows would be cool with it. I loved this book for its portrayal of high school and feeling like there’s an invisible wall between you and other people. I think it would be a good movie. Definitely a good one to get from the library if you can (this is basically my code for “I wouldn’t spend money on it but I liked it!”).


#GIRLBOSS
by Sophia Amoruso
★★★★


Amoruso spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and scrounging in dumpsters for leftover bagels. By age twenty-two she had dropped out of school, and was broke, directionless, and checking IDs in the lobby of an art school—a job she’d taken for the health insurance. It was in that lobby that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay.

Flash forward to today, and she’s the founder of Nasty Gal and the founder and CEO of Girlboss. Sophia was never a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she’s written #GIRLBOSS for other girls like her: outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success, even when that path is windy as all hell and lined with naysayers.

#GIRLBOSS proves that being successful isn’t about where you went to college or how popular you were in high school. It’s about trusting your instincts and following your gut; knowing which rules to follow and which to break; when to button up and when to let your freak flag fly.

I’m trying to read more biographies + memoirs, and I liked this because it was inspiring to read about how Sophia built her brand Nasty Gal from the ground up, without even really meaning to. It inspired me to work a little harder and not let failure stop me. I don’t actually know much about the brand itself apart from what I read here and the billboards I’ve seen in LA,  but this was a short read that was good for some motivation when I needed it. Definitely a good library read! 


GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT
by Jaye Robin Brown
★★★


Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

This is a young adult novel about a teenage girl who’s been out as long as she can remember – until she moves to a new town and her dad asks her to pretend to be straight to fit in. It’s hard enough to move somewhere new as a teenage girl, but what if you’re asked to hide an essential part of yourself? Truthfully, it’s been a number of weeks since I read this, but I remember that I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to. It was entertaining, but it dragged a bit in the middle. I liked the relationships between the characters. I still found it realistic and thought provoking.⠀


COME MATTER HERE
by Hannah Brencher
★★★★★


Life is scary. Adulting is hard. When faced with the challenges of building a life of your own, it’s all too easy to stake your hope and happiness in “someday.” But what if the dotted lines on the map at your feet today mattered just as much as the destination you dream of?

Our hyper-connected era has led us to believe life should be a highlight reel—where what matters most is perfect beauty, instant success, and ready applause. Yet, as Hannah learned, nothing about faith, relationships, or character is instant. So she took up a new mantra: be where your feet are. Give yourself a permission slip to stop chasing the next big thing, and come matter here.

I love Hannah Brencher’s writing so much. This book is exactly what I needed to read in this season of uncertainty and wanting to run away. It’s all about staying put where you are so you can grow roots and be known. Hannah’s struggle of depression is heartwrenching but also one I identify with, so at times this was a hard read. It’s important, though, and I know I’ll be rereading this one.⠀


EDUCATED
by Tara Westover
★★★★★


Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills” bag. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged metal in her father’s junkyard. 

When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. There, she studied psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal world events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

This is an engaging memoir of a woman who didn’t go to school until she was 17. Instead she stayed home with her family, devout Mormons who attempted to homeschool their kids but really just made them work on a farm. It was so different than my upbringing and parts of it seem too crazy to be true – which means that they must be. After reading it, I found out that some of her family members are suing her for her portrayal of them in the book! It’ll be interesting to see how that goes. I definitely recommend this one.⠀


I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK
by Michelle McNamara
★★★★★


For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’m not usually one for true crime, but I’d heard so much about this that I had to request the ebook from the library. I read it in 24 hours, starting it on a redeye flight to the east coast and finishing in the next night before I fell asleep. Finishing it at night in a strange-to-me place in the middle of the night was probably a bad idea, but regardless, I loved reading this book. It’s told in such a gripping, specific way that’s like a cross between a novel and a textbook. It was never boring and I couldn’t stop reading. I definitely recommend it!⠀


RICH AND PRETTY
by Rumaan Alam
★★


Sarah, the only child of a prominent intellectual and a socialite, works at a charity and is methodically planning her wedding. Lauren—beautiful, independent, and unpredictable—is single and working in publishing, deflecting her parents’ worries and questions about her life and future by trying not to think about it herself. Each woman envies—and is horrified by—particular aspects of the other’s life, topics of conversation they avoid with masterful linguistic pirouettes.

Once, Sarah and Lauren were inseparable; for a long a time now, they’ve been apart. Can two women who rarely see one other, selectively share secrets, and lead different lives still call themselves best friends? Is it their abiding connection—or just force of habit—that keeps them together?

While this was a great beach read that I read in two sittings, I honestly didn’t understand it. It was pretty boring, but since it was about two friends growing up and growing apart, maybe that was the point. Sometimes life is boring! I liked glimpsing their rich people lives, so different than mine, and found the friendship aspects realistic, but I’m not sure I can recommend this one.⠀


In total this month:

Total number of books: ten
Number of fiction books: six
Number of nonfiction books: four
Books by people who are not white dudes: ten
Total number of books this year: fifty eight