Category Archives: Books

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

Playing With Matches

August 4, 2018

Playing With Matches by Hannah Orenstein

I read too much these days to do in-depth reviews of all the books I read; it would take up all my time! But I wanted to do a special post for this one, since I know Hannah in real life and have been looking forward to this book for a long time!

Here’s the summary:

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 sat down with this book at the pool one Saturday afternoon and had finished it by Sunday evening. It’s a fun read with a lot of heart – a perfect read for summer time! I identified with Sasha in lots of ways: we’re both recent college graduates with journalism degrees trying to figure out our lives. Where we diverge is that Sasha lands a job at a matchmaking agency.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book for me is the matchmaking. It’s not something that we tend to think of as a career in 2018, but it’s a very real career. Sasha might not be a dating expert (as the summary suggests, she’s dealing with a lot of turmoil in her dating life) but she still manages to set people up. Who among us hasn’t imagined being the driving force in someone’s love story?

I really loved that New York is a character all its own in this book: every place mentioned in the book feels so real, and it’s easy to picture Sasha riding the train and flicking through Tinder matches for her clients or grabbing coffee and bumping into someone she thinks would be a perfect fit for one.

I loved how fresh and modern this book feels. Hannah really nails the realistic aspect of the characters; any one of them could be a friend of mine, and that’s what makes it so fun to read. Of course there’s more drama (and a great twist) than in my real life, but it’s realistic all the same. I also found the friendship aspect of this really important. Sasha and her best friend Caroline go through ups and downs, but they’re always there to support each other, and I find that both important and refreshing.

If you’re looking for an engaging read that will have you flicking through the pages as quick as you flick through Tinder or Bumble matches, this is the book for you!

June 2018 Books

July 3, 2018

I read 5 books in July. I’ve fallen out of my reading routine a little bit, but I’m leaning into it. Goodreads says I’m only two books behind my goal, so I’m not as behind as I thought. Also: reading is supposed to be fun!

Because June is Pride month, I intentionally read books that had LGBTQ representation. this month. The representation might be small in some of these books, but it’s definitely there. I’ve avoided pointing this out in the books where applicable because of spoilers!


THE FEMALE PERSUASION by Meg Wolitzer
★★★★

Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer–madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place–feels her inner world light up. Then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.


Main thoughts on this: a good story but about 100 pages too long. I flew through the first half and it took so long to get through the second half. I liked the characters (or at least found something redeeming about each of them) and found this a decently interesting story. But I sort of felt like it was missing something. Maybe it was a bit too long. I read Wolitzer’s THE INTERESTINGS a few years ago and didn’t enjoy it as much as this one, which was more relevant to my life and interests. I loved the different depictions of womanhood and making your way in the world.


THE BOOK OF ESSIE by Meghan MacLean Weir
★★★★


Esther Ann Hicks–Essie–is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She’s grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family’s fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie’s mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show’s producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia’s? Or do they try to arrange a marriage–and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media–through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell–Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?


This book is a cross between 19 Kids and Counting (which I will shamelessly admit I used to be obsessed with) and Teen Mom, with a pinch of a wedding episode of The Bachelor. I loved Essie’s gumption in going after what she wants, and I loved that it read like a reality show. I found it hard to keep track of all the family members and wish that had been clearer from the beginning. I both loved and hated that it felt like there were a bunch of loose threads hanging at the end: it kept me reading for sure, but it annoyed me when I got to the end and couldn’t figure out what those things were supposed to mean. Sometimes I wonder if I take things too literally and don’t pick up on the subtext in books, you know? Overall though, this was a great read. Some of the themes are heavy (sexual assault, murder, cults) but I didn’t think of it as a dark book.


WHEN KATIE MET CASSIDY by Camille Perri
★★★★

Katie Daniels is a perfection-seeking 28-year-old lawyer living the New York dream. She’s engaged to charming art curator Paul Michael, has successfully made her way up the ladder at a multinational law firm and has a hold on apartments in Soho and the West Village. Suffice it to say, she has come a long way from her Kentucky upbringing. But the rug is swept from under Katie when she is suddenly dumped by her fiance, Paul Michael, leaving her devastated and completely lost. On a whim, she agrees to have a drink with Cassidy Price-a self-assured, sexually promiscuous woman she meets at work. The two form a newfound friendship, which soon brings into question everything Katie thought she knew about sex—and love.


This is a well-written romcom on a topic that doesn’t get enough literary attention: what happens when you might not be as straight as you thought? This is one way it could go. I would have liked more info on the character’s backstories and motivations, if I had my way. I liked this more than The Assistants, Perri’s first novel, and its easy reading makes it a great beach read. I definitely don’t think it’ll win any literary awards, and I have some issues with the plot, but beyond that I would recommend it. It was fun.


THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Reid Jenkins
★★★★★

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.


I bought the audiobook of this one last summer, listened to 30% of it, and then decided I needed it in hard copy so I could read it again and lend it to friends. I loved it so much. Evelyn’s story is so intriguing, full of that Old Hollywood glamor that I’m so intrigued by. I loved it for Evelyn’s story of her life as an actress and falling in love with the most unexpected person and learning from your mistakes. It’s a book set in LA that doesn’t feel like the cheesy kind of LA book – since moving here I’ve somehow read far too many of those. I loved it.


THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS by Taylor Jenkins Reid
★★★

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.


I’d heard so much about it before I finally got around to reading it. While it absolutely had an impact and I’m glad I read it, I didn’t love this book as much as I wanted to! It’s emotionally gut wrenching in so many ways, both good and bad, all about family and identity and what it means to help your kids grow into themselves. I felt like it dragged on a little too long and the metaphors were too drawn out, but beyond that I’d still recommend it for sure.


In total this month:

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

May 2018 Books

June 4, 2018

I have no clue how I did it, but I managed to read FIFTEEN books this month. It’s crazy. This month is also the one I decided that I was going to start reading Kindle books from the library again. Honestly, a big part of why I didn’t is because I loved the image of my book stack at the end of the month. But after examining my finances and moving a million books into my new apartment at the end of last month, I decided not spending money on more books I’ll have to move again is more important than a complete book stack. I’ll still be buying books when they’re important to me, but I want to focus less on the aesthetic and more on saving money. Buckle up, because this is a long post!

THE ANSWERS by Catherine Lacey
★★★


We are introduced to Mary, a young woman living in New York City and struggling to cope with a body that has betrayed her. All but paralyzed with pain, Mary seeks relief from a New Agey treatment called Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia, PAKing for short. And, remarkably, it works. But PAKing is prohibitively expensive and Mary is dead broke. So she scours Craigslist for fast-cash jobs and finds herself applying for the “Girlfriend Experiment,” the brainchild of an eccentric actor, Kurt Sky, who is determined to find the perfect relationship—even if that means paying different women to fulfill distinctive roles. Mary is hired as the “Emotional Girlfriend”—certainly better than the “Anger Girlfriend” or the “Maternal Girlfriend”—and is pulled into Kurt’s ego-driven and messy attempt at human connection.


I bought this book on my birthday on the recommendation of the bookseller at the indie book store near my new apartment, Book Soup. I was a little bit hesitant but I decided I would trust her. I wouldn’t say that she was wrong in her description, but rather that the book just probably wasn’t for me.

CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND by Kevin Kwan
★★★


It’s the eve of Rachel Chu’s wedding, and she should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond, a wedding dress she loves, and a fiancé willing to thwart his meddling relatives and give up one of the biggest fortunes in Asia in order to marry her. Still, Rachel mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be there to walk her down the aisle. Then a chance accident reveals his identity. Suddenly, Rachel is drawn into a dizzying world of Shanghai splendor, a world where people attend church in a penthouse, where exotic cars race down the boulevard, and where people aren’t just crazy rich … they’re China rich.


This is the sequel to CRAZY RICH ASIANS, which I read last month. I bought it on a bit of a whim when I was finishing up the first one (we needed to get our parking ticket validated and I oh-so-bravely volunteered to make a purchase at Barnes and Noble to do so, such a sacrifice!) and I liked it! I can’t decide which one I liked more.

SHRILL by Lindy West
★★★★

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.


I met Lindy West at the Festival of Books last year, where she signed this book that I promptly put on the shelf and didn’t pick up for a year. My roommate Bri read my copy before I did, and then I figured I should probably get to it. Lindy has been dealing with trolls for basically as long as the internet has been around, and she struggled with them at first, and then decided she wasn’t going to put up with them anymore. She was going to keep doing her thing, no matter who didn’t like it.

I should warn that this book has crude language and discusses some heavy topics (the summary gives a bit of an idea of that) but if you can handle those things, this is a memoir that I think is worth reading. I really identified with Lindy’s struggles of body image, to the point where I said out loud “I don’t like this book” and wanted to stop reading – that’s how real it felt to me. I’m glad I pressed on, though, because this book is funny. It made me want to be a bit more courageous in the way I deal with struggle.

HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN by JK Rowling
★★★★

For twelve long years, the dreaded fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, “He’s at Hogwarts… he’s at Hogwarts.” Harry Potter isn’t safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may be a traitor in their midst.


Every year I’ve intended to re-read the Harry Potter books, and I never manage to get past the first two or three. I’m hopeful that this is the year I’m finally going to complete that reread. It’s weird because I love these books so much, and they always hold a certain kind of magic, but there’s a weird sort of dread that comes from rereading them. It’s almost like I’ve read the firs one so man times that it seems like a chore to cmplete the reread, which is probably why I’ve gotten stuck so many times. I’ve read the later ones in the series far less times, and those are some of my favorites, so I’m hopeful about my ability to continue this challenge going forward. (Just keeping it real here today, I guess!)

THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater
★★★★

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.


This one is a reread too; it’s a series of four books, and I own the first three but have only read this first one. It’s a YA fantasy book that conjures up thoughts of old journals and dark forests and magic and cars that might break down at any moment – if this seems like some sort of aesthetic mood board, that’s because this book makes me think of all those things. I usually stay away from paranormal, but I’m excited to continue with the rest of this series for the first time.

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN by John Green
★★★★

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.


Oh god, this book. I read it all in one day, on Mother’s Day, because when your mom lives far away and everyone else is busy, there’s not much happening. So I picked it up and read it with coffee on the couch, and then later I sat by the pool and read in the sunshine, and then I finished it that night in bed.

It is entirely fair to say that this book really stressed me out, but I loved it. It’s not plot-heavy (I actually have some issues with the plot, but I’m willing to let them go) but instead it focuses on Aza’s mental health and how she deals with it.

I’m noticing now as I’m writing this that the cover is a perfect depiction of the book. I wrote a little bit more about how this book affected me earlier this month, but I really just recommend you pick it up yourself.

SOURDOUGH by Robin Sloan
★★★★

Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favourite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread. Lois becomes the unlikely hero tasked to care for it, bake with it and keep this needy colony of microorganisms alive. Soon she is baking loaves daily and taking them to the farmer’s market, where an exclusive close-knit club runs the show. When Lois discovers another, more secret market, aiming to fuse food and technology, a whole other world opens up. But who are these people, exactly?


The description on the back of the book is a little misleading – all of that stuff happens in the first fifty pages or so, and the rest of the book is about what happens next. (Maybe that’s what the back descriptions are for, actually, but I tend to want to know a bit more about the plot ahead of time.) This book is about the convergence of technology and baking, with some magical realism thrown in for good measure. It’s an entertaining read that I really enjoyed, but I find it hard to describe after the fact. It all makes sense while you’re reading, though, which is most important.

OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES by Abbi Waxman
★★


As the longtime local carpool mom, Frances Bloom is sometimes an unwilling witness to her neighbors’ private lives. She knows her cousin is hiding her desire for another baby from her spouse, Bill Horton’s wife is mysteriously missing, and now this… After the shock of seeing Anne Porter in all her extramarital glory, Frances vows to stay in her own lane. But that’s a notion easier said than done when Anne’s husband throws her out a couple of days later. The repercussions of the affair reverberate through the four carpool families–and Frances finds herself navigating a moral minefield that could make or break a marriage.


This one is probably best described as chick lit – it’s a family drama about neighborhood relationships and how they intertwine. I liked it ok but didn’t love it. There were parts that grated on me and parts that I found heartwarming. I appreciated it for its diversity of families and that it showed no matter how families look on the outside, nothing is perfect. It was told from the view of two women and one man, the primary caretakers for their kids, but there were a few instances when the kids’ perspectives were brought in. I wanted more OR less from the kids – either commit to the viewpoint or don’t, but with the way it was done I felt like so many loose ends were left hanging. I bought this from BOTM and it actually made me reconsider the types of books I buy in the future. This would be a good one to get from the library.

BACHELOR NATION by Amy Kaufman
★★★★

Bachelor Nation is the first behind-the-scenes, unauthorized look into the reality television phenomenon. Los Angeles Times journalist Amy Kaufman is a proud member of Bachelor Nation and has a long history with the franchise–ABC even banned her from attending show events after her coverage of the program got a little too real for its liking. She has interviewed dozens of producers, contestants, and celebrity fans to give readers never-before-told details of the show’s inner workings: what it’s like to be trapped in the mansion “bubble”; dark, juicy tales of producer manipulation; and revelations about the alcohol-fueled debauchery that occurs long before the fantasy suite.


I saw Amy speak at last month’s LA Times Festival of Books, and even though I don’t watch The Bachelor, I knew I wanted to read this. I actually don’t follow the show super closely so I’m not sure how much of this was already known, but to an outsider it was mind blowing. Obviously so much of The Bachelor is staged, but this brought to light a lot about how things work behind the scenes. There’s stories of contestants being encouraged to get drunk and stay up all night because the things they say when sleep deprived make for good stories. This is one I’d recommend getting from the library if you can; it’s a quick read that you probably won’t reread. Glad I read it!

THE LIGHT WE LOST by Jill Santopolo
★★★★


Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.


This book is written like a letter from Lucy to Gabe, so there’s lots of casual writing and use of the word “you”. If that’s not your thing, stay away from this one. I loved that it was told in different vignettes of different lengths; it felt more casual and informal. which would be true to the story. This is essentially the tale of two star-crossed lovers who never quite managed to get it together. I liked it!

THE ASSISTANTS by Camille Perri
★★★

Tina Fontana is the hapless but brazen thirty-year-old executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the all-powerful and commanding CEO of Titan Corp., a multinational media conglomerate. She’s excellent at her job and beloved by her famous boss—but after six years of making his reservations for restaurants she’d never get into on her own and pouring his drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, she’s bored, broke, and just a bit over it all. When a technical error with Robert’s travel-and-expenses report presents Tina with the opportunity to pay off the entire balance of her student loan debt with what would essentially be pocket change for her boss, she struggles with the decision: She’s always played by the rules. But it’s such a relatively small amount of money for the Titan Corporation—and for her it would be a life-changer…


This was a fun story – who hasn’t dreamed about having all their debt wiped away in one fell swoop? It felt like it all wrapped up too neatly, but I was willing to ignore that for the sake of the story that came before it. Another good library book, and one that would make a great movie!

STRONGER by Jeff Bauman
★★★★

Jeff Bauman woke up on Tuesday, April 16th 2013 and he had no legs. Just thirty hours prior, Jeff was surrounded by revelry at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. The first bomb went off at his feet as he awaited his girlfriend’s finish. When Jeff awoke days later from hours of surgery, rather than take stock of his now completely altered life, Jeff ripped out his breathing tube and tried to speak. He couldn’t. Jeff asked for a pad and paper and he wrote down seven words, “Saw the guy. Looked right at me,” setting off one of the biggest manhunts in the country’s history and beginning his own brave road to recovery.


Jeff got both his legs blown off at the 2013 Boston Marathon (you’ve definitely seen the photo) and this is his story. It’s been 5 years since the bombing, and I no longer think about that day all the time anymore. I don’t think I could’ve read this book when it came out four years ago, but I was ready for it now. What I liked the most is that it was real and didn’t shy away from the hard stuff. Also the Red Sox feature heavily, which is right up my alley. I doubt this would ever happen but I would love to read a follow up.

THE QUEEN OF HEARTS by Kimmery Martin
★★

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.


I’d been wanting to read this for weeks, after seeing it all over bookstagram. That cover is gorgeous! Unfortunately that was basically the best part. It’s a bit like Grey’s Anatomy: medical and family drama galore, which is up my alley. I thought it was well told. What I didn’t like: there was too much medical jargon for me, and I found it hard to keep the two character voices distinct in my head. Once I found out what the secret was I pretty much stopped caring. This one is sadly pretty forgettable. I’m disappointed because I really wanted to love this.

HOW TO WALK AWAY by Katherine Center
★★★

Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment. In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect. 


In reading this book, I learned that I don’t love stories that involve someone trying to overcome some sort of life-changing injury that’s meant to be inspirational. This book was in the style of ME BEFORE YOU, and I just do not think those are for me in most cases. This was a fun read, but a little too cheesy for my taste. It falls into that beach read/chick lit category, which I do not at all feel guilty about loving. This was just one that didn’t work for me. I enjoyed the experience of reading it, but looking back it felt cheesy and predictable.

THE CIRCLE by Dave Eggers
★★★★

When Mae is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Run out of a sprawling California campus, the Circle links users’ personal emails, social media, and finances with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of transparency. Mae can’t believe her great fortune to work for them – even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.


I saw the movie that stemmed from this book last May, just before my first day of work. I didn’t like the movie that much, but I’m happy to say I liked the book a bit better. I loved how this deals with technology taking over our lives I have a running with, which tracks my steps, mileage, heart rate, the hours I sleep, and much more. I have an app that tracks how much I read a day. I use a program that tracks how much I spend. Just between those three programs, I’m collecting an awful lot of data on myself. In lots of cases this data collection is useful – but what happens when it takes over our lives? That’s what this book is about. There’s a few awkward + uncomfortable sex scenes, and the characters sometimes feel a bit like caricatures, but beyond that I liked it!


In total this month:

Total number of books: fifteen
Number of fiction books: twelve
Number of nonfiction books: three
Books by people who are not white dudes: eleven
Total number of books this year: forty three

22 Questions for Bookworms

May 14, 2018

My Book of the Month picks for May!


I’m borrowing this idea from Rachel, who is one of the only people I follow online who’s a bigger bookworm than me; feel free to join in if you want!

HARDBACK OR TRADE PAPERBACK OR MASS MARKET PAPERBACK?

I love hardback best of all! My second choice is trade paperback. However, just having moved apartments, I can say that hardcovers are heavy and books are a pain to move and I probably should start using the library more.

AMAZON OR BRICK AND MORTAR?

I think I’m about 50/50 on shopping at each. There’s something so nice about placing an order for a few books on Amazon, but there’s also something special about walking out of the store with books in your hand.

LOCALLY OWNED BOOKSHOP OR BIG NAME CHAIN STORE?

Local! There’s a number of independent brick and mortar bookstores here in the LA area that I adore – Book Soup and Skylight Books are two. Though I will say a few weeks ago I bought two books at Barnes and Noble.

BOOKMARK OR DOG-EAR?

I don’t tend to do either! I lean toward bookmarks though.

ALPHABETIZE BY AUTHOR OR ALPHABETIZE BY TITLE OR RANDOM?

Totally random! My bookshelf organization makes some sort of sense in my head, but there’s no real organization to speak of.

KEEP, THROW AWAY, OR SELL?

I keep most books unless I really didn’t like them and will never read them again. I just donated a few such books to Goodwill during my move. I’ll also give books away to friends.

KEEP DUST JACKET OR TOSS IT?

Keep. I hardly ever take them off.

READ WITH DUST JACKET OR REMOVE IT?

Always leave it on!

SHORT STORY OR NOVEL?

Novel. Short stories are great but I rarely read them.

COLLECTION (SHORT STORIES BY SAME AUTHOR) OR ANTHOLOGY (SHORT STORIES BY DIFFERENT AUTHORS)?

I used to be really into anthologies! These days I don’t tend to read either.

STOP READING WHEN TIRED OR AT CHAPTER BREAKS?

Chapter breaks.

“IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT” OR “ONCE UPON A TIME”?

Once upon a time.

BUY OR BORROW?

I wish my answer was borrow (and so does my wallet) but I tend to buy more often than not. I figure there are far worse things I could spend money on.

NEW OR USED?

Usually new, though I love and adore a great used bookstore.

BUYING CHOICE: BOOK REVIEWS, RECOMMENDATION OR BROWSE?

Browse, or buy it cause I saw it on Instagram and I loved the cover.

TIDY ENDING OR CLIFFHANGER?

Ooh, it depends! I like both, if they’re done well.

MORNING, AFTERNOON OR NIGHTTIME READING?

All of the above.

SINGLE VOLUME OR SERIES?

Single, though there are a few series I’ve really loved.

FAVORITE SERIES?

Is it cliche to say Harry Potter? I don’t care. Harry Potter.

FAVORITE BOOK OF WHICH NOBODY ELSE HAS HEARD?

I can’t think of one cause I get most of my recommendations from online, but Castle of Water is a book I definitely don’t hear about enough.

FAVORITE BOOKS READ LAST YEAR?

I wrote about them here! It’s weird to read that list back cause I’m not sure I would’ve put all of them on there now, but I still highly recommend them all.

FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME?

Oh god, I don’t have a list for this one. You can find my Goodreads here. Favorites from browsing that list: Dark Matter, Small Great Things, The Mothers, Station Eleven, My Sister’s Keeper.

April Books

May 4, 2018

I read precisely ONE book in April, and it was Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

April was a weird month for me – I was sick for the first week and missed a few days of work, and then I was looking for a new place to live, and I wasn’t exercising at all, save for two times I made myself go running. I felt out of my routine, and because of it my reading time fell to the wayside. I did also read half of The Hate U Give, but I haven’t finished it yet. In short, April was weird, and my reading suffered, but it’s okay.


When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.

On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.


I bought this for myself for my birthday after hearing there was a movie coming out, and I liked it a lot! It took a little bit to get into, and there’s about nine million characters so it can be hard to keep track of them all, but it was a fun comedy. Honestly, there was a lot of info-dumping and name-dropping of brands (which I think is the point) but once I got into it I was easily flipping pages.

I liked reading about Rachel discovering just how wealthy Nick’s family is and trying to adapt to that situation; she was really thrown off the deep end and it was fun to watch her deal with it. I look forward to the movie! I’ve already bought the second one and I started it yesterday.


In total this month:

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

March 2018 Books

April 3, 2018

I read so many books this month! I’m not quite sure how I did it. Because of this, I’m experimenting with a more freeform review format. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s most effective (do you really want plot summaries, or do you prefer to look that up yourself?) and so I’m trying something a little different.

 


The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

I didn’t expect to love this because I haven’t loved a few of Joshilyn Jackson’s older books, but I loved this one. It’s about a comic book artist who finds out she’s pregnant after a one night stand at a comic convention – but the father is black and she’s originally from the South, and doesn’t think her family, especially her sick grandmother,  will take it well. I bought this one last fall on a recommendation from Modern Mrs. Darcy, and definitely recommend it.

 


Still Me by Jojo Moyes

I ordered this from Book of the Month before I knew that it was the third in the series, not the second. So I had to read the second one (which I did last month) and I was happy to discover that I liked this one much more! I’ve heard a lot of people say the second one fell flat, and this one felt like a return to the Louisa from the first book. I definitely agree. She moves to New York to work for a rich family, and her adjustment to her new life in the US reminded me a lot of adjusting to my life here in California.

 


American Fire by Monica Hesse

This is another one from Book of the Month, I think from sometime last fall. It’s a nonfiction book about a rural town where abandoned houses suddenly started catching fire, and about the arsonist who did it. I am trying to read more nonfiction, and I loved the way this one was told. It’s one of those books I probably would get from the library if I were to do it again (ie, I don’t feel the need to have paid for it) but I did like reading it.

 


The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

I bought this one at the bookstore on a whim one day after seeing it all over Instagram. That cover is beautiful. I read it SO QUICKLY (95% all in one sitting) and I couldn’t even be disappointed because I loved it so much. It’s about four siblings who visit a traveling psychic as a kid and discover the date of their deaths. They all deal with it in really different ways. Two of the siblings really affected me, but I won’t say which ones for fear of giving anything away. I really, definitely recommend this one and I can’t wait to reread it, which isn’t something I usually do. It made me think a lot about if I’d like to know the date of my death and how I’d approach my life from that moment.


Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

My dad got this for me as a gift two Christmases ago. I love Lauren Graham – she was incredible on Gilmore Girls and fantastic on what I’ve seen of Parenthood. It’s a light and fun read about Gilmore Girls, making in work in Hollywood, and not taking yourself too seriously. I recommend if you’re into any of those things – it took me just over an hour, so I’d say get it from the library if you can. I recently read that she has a new book coming out, and I’m hoping to find that one soon.

 


Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

This is another book I bought on Amazon after seeing it at the San Francisco airport last fall (I think I had more disposable income to spend on books back then, aka I wasn’t being financially responsible!). It’s about a British family of Pakistani origin living in England. The father they barely knew did some terrible things that hurt a lot of people, and all three siblings (all young adults, all orphaned) struggle to deal with this in different ways. It was a fast and heartbreaking read that I couldn’t put down, on a lot of racial and cultural themes that as a white person I am privileged to not have to think about.


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I got this one as a BOTM extra in February after seeing widespread praise for it online. It’s a little painful to read, but necessary. Early into the marriage of Celestial and Roy, a young black couple excited for their life together, Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. She struggles to be a long distance wife who really doesn’t know her husband all that well, while Roy struggles with life in prison and all that that entails. It’s told from a few different perspectives, and I found it a really valuable read.


The Crown by Robert Lacey

I bought this one on a whim at Target after finishing the second season of The Crown, which I adore.  I expected this book to be about the making of the TV series and the challenges of historical fiction (especially when the characters are still living) but I as wrong. It turned out mostly to be a episode by episode breakdown of the historical events in those episodes, with only a few references to the show. I learned a lot of very specific things about British history as a result, and though it was different than I was expecting I really liked it.


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I came home from seeing Love, Simon (which I have now seen twice) and picked up this book immediately. I read it super quickly (so I think it’s a good library-or-borrow pick) and found it really cute. The movie had more of an impact for me (I cried a number of times) but I think books like this one are so important. I suspect that I didn’t like this one as much because it’s told from a first-person perspective of a YA character, and while I love that in movies, I frequently can’t get into it for books these days. I absolutely agree that that’s how the story needed to be told, but it didn’t work for me, unfortunately. It’s rare for me to like a movie more than the book, but this time I did.


The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Another one from BOTM last month. This book was incredible. It’s about a girl in the 1970s whose dad decides to uproot their family to Alaska to explore the new frontier – but he’s a Vietnam vet with a lot of anger issues made worse by isolation, and they know absolutely nothing about living in the wilderness. I read it so quickly, and like The Immortalists, I can’t wait to read it again. I have really big feelings about this one, and all of them are good. It’s so visual and the plot really sucks you in.


The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

This was my March pick from BOTM, and I liked it! It’s set in Los Angeles that’s centered around a family quest. The grandfather/patriarch of the family, Isaac Severy, dies, leaving a puzzle behind him. Hazel, his adopted granddaughter, starts looking to piece clues together, but she soon discovers that she’s not the only one doing so. There’s a dangerous organization also on the hunt for Isaac’s life’s work. It can be a little hard to keep all the characters straight in your head, but I enjoyed reading it. This is another one I might get from the library if I could do it again, rather than buying it.


The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

I picked this up on a whim at the airport because the cover is gorgeous. I didn’t love it as much as I love the cover, but it was still a good story of a boy’s life growing up in Italy with his Mom and painter father, who then abandons him for a new family. It’s about his struggle living in shadow of his legacy and how he deals with it. It’s a bit like The Goldfinch, which I admittedly didn’t like, but they’re both centered a lot around art and a boy’s relationship to their fathers. All the reviews I saw on Goodreads for this one were so good, but I found it a bit slow. I can admit that it’s beautifully told; I just don’t think it was right for me at this time.


In total this month:

Total number of books: twelve
Number of fiction books: ten
Number of nonfiction books: two
Books by people who are not white dudes: ten
Total number of books this year: twenty seven

February 2018 Books

February 28, 2018

I had a pretty good reading month in February! Happy to say that with 15 books under my belt, I’m on track with my goal to read 100 books in 2018.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

rating: 5 stars | Amazon

The plot:

Ever since Harry Potter had come home for the summer, the Dursleys had been so mean and hideous that all Harry wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature who says that if Harry returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor and a spirit who haunts the girls’ bathroom. But then the real trouble begins — someone is turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects…Harry Potter himself!

My thoughts:

It’s hard for me to be objective about Harry Potter since it feels so much a part of the fabric of my life,  but I’m gonna try. This book is a bit darker than the first, but it’s also more entertaining. There’s Polyjuice Potion, a monster in the walls, and a dragon. In all my attempts at recent rereads I haven’t made it past this one, so I’m excited to make that happen this time.


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

rating: 5 stars | Amazon

The plot:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest.

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

My thoughts:

Nearly a year ago, I was on my way to the airport with a one way ticket to LA and this book in my overflowing, too-heavy carry on. I decided to leave it behind in my dad’s car and figured I’d get to read it another time. I picked it up when I went home in October and I finally read it! I loved it. It’s dramatic and dark and slightly unbelievable – a really great, juicy book. If you’ve read it, which is better: the book or the tv show? I still haven’t watched the show, though a few weeks ago I happened to work out at one of the filming locations! (That’s LA life, I guess.)


Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

rating: 3 stars | Amazon

The plot:

Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief.

My thoughts:

I had high hopes for this one – set in Los Angeles – but they weren’t quite met. Some of the writing was beautiful, and the plot points kept making me think after I put the book down. But I just never felt connected to Ruth, the main character, and that proved to be a setback for me. It was a quick read, and I’m glad I borrowed it from the library.


The Self-Love Experiment by Shannon Kaiser

rating: 3 stars | Amazon

The plot:

Too many people seem to believe that they are not allowed to put themselves first or go after their own dreams out of fear of being selfish or sacrificing others’ needs. The Self-Love Experiment rectifies this problem. Whether you want to achieve weight loss, land your dream job, find your soul mate, or get out of debt, it all comes back to self-love and accepting yourself first. Shannon Kaiser learned the secrets to loving herself, finding purpose, and living a passion-filled life after recovering from eating disorders, drug addictions, corporate burnout, and depression.

My thoughts:

This book is a little “woo-woo” but I really liked its main message, which is that we absolutely need to treat ourselves with love. Most days I do the exact opposite, and it doesn’t feel good. This was an encouraging and motivating reminder to treat myself like my own best friend. I borrowed it from a friend, which I was glad for.


After You by Jojo Moyes

rating: 4 stars | Amazon

The plot:

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future.

My thoughts:

I got this one from the library after realizing that my Book of the Month selection, Still Me, was the third in the Me Before You trilogy. I liked this one a lot more than I expected to, given that everyone seemed to dislike it. I didn’t think this book was necessary but it was a nice easy read, and I’m excited to see where the characters end up in the next book.


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

rating: 4 stars | Amazon

The plot:

In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

My thoughts:

The book club I started a few months ago really wanted to read this. To be honest with you, I was kind of dreading it – video games aren’t my thing, and when I’d seen the author speak at my college a few years back (actually like 6 now, which feels like so long ago) I wasn’t super interested in the book. But I’m happy to report that this book did catch my attention. I’m genuinely looking forward to the movie now to see what they’ve done with it.


The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

rating: 3 stars | Amazon

The plot:

During her multibook investigation into understanding human nature, Gretchen Rubin realized that by asking the seemingly dry question “How do I respond to expectations?” we gain explosive self-knowledge. She discovered that based on their answer, people fit into Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so using this framework allows us to make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress, and engage more effectively.

My thoughts:

I listen to her podcast Happier each week and so I had heard much of this information before, but it was nice to have it all in one place. I’m a Questioner, and she says that Questioners like to give information on a need-to-know basis, which is me to a T. It made me feel a bit better about that personality quirk, actually! I’d recommend this if you’re interested in personality types or learning about how other people’s brains work. I was definitely glad I got it from the library.


Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom

rating: 3 stars | Amazon

The plot:

When Molly Bloom was a little girl in a small Colorado town, she dreamed of a life without rules and limits, a life where she didn’t have to measure up to anyone or anything—where she could become whatever she wanted. She ultimately got more than she could have ever bargained for.

In Molly’s Game, she takes you through her adventures running an exclusive high-stakes private poker game catering to such clients as Hollywood royalty like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck, athletes, billionaires, politicians, and financial titans. With rich detail, Molly describes a world of glamour, privilege, and secrecy in which she made millions, lived the high life, and fearlessly took on the Russian and Italian mobs—until she met the one adversary she could not outsmart: the United States government. It’s the story of how a determined woman gained—and then lost—her place at the table, and of everything she learned about poker, love, and life in the process.

My thoughts:

I read this for the Popsugar Challenge requirement of “a book made into a movie you’ve already seen.” This is one of the rare cases where I felt like the movie was better. The writing wasn’t great in the book (and I found a few typos) but the story is still really engaging. Yet another book that I’m glad I got for free.


In total this month:

Total number of books: eight
Number of fiction books: five
Number of nonfiction books: three
Books by people who are not white dudes: seven
Total number of books this year: fifteen