November 2018 Reads

My holiday plans never require me to go too far from home. Our extended family is both minimal and local, so on days like Thanksgiving, my family and I are usually back in our PJs by 8 p.m. and delving into movies or books for the rest of the night. My low-key holiday break last month meant I had plenty of reading time, and after a stint of feeling very meh about the books I finished, November finally delivered with some fantastic reads!

I had some of the books below pre-ordered or on hold for what felt like forever, but they were well worth the wait. You can expect to see one of these appear in an upcoming post on my favorite books of the year!

Kate: The Future Queen, by Katie Nicholl (★★★★☆)

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I downloaded this in a moment of impatience when my library holds seemed perpetually stuck on the #1 spot. I’ve read another Kate Middleton biography in the past, but this one is by Katie Nicholl, a very reputable royals reporter. Following Kate’s life right up to after she gave birth to Prince George, the book is definitely the most comprehensive take on her that I’ve read. It included details about her family and her relationship with Prince William that I never heard before, and you’d be hard-pressed to find some royal dirt that I haven’t come across.

I finished this before all of the recent stories about Kate and Meghan Markle feuding emerged (I think the reports are exaggerated and come from a slightly misogynistic media perspective). Given that news, thinking about the royals has stressed me out lately, but Kate: The Future Queen was the perfect definition of easy, breezy reading. Yes, I know what’s going to happen, but it’s nice to just jump into a non-fiction story that has a happy ending.

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October 2018 Reads

Happy November! This is my favorite time of year — the weather has finally realized it’s autumn, Oscar bait movies are hitting the theaters, and the general merriment and chaos of the holiday season is in the air. While I have several contemporary reads coming up on my library holds list, I mostly read historical fiction in October. Four of these books were NetGalley ARCs, but two of them have since been published and are receiving some well-deserved praise!

Although the ratings of this lineup suggest the books were fairly average, the majority of them had special elements that really stood out to me and kept me invested.

One Day in December, by Josie Silver (★★★★☆)

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In her early twenties near the Christmas holidays, Laurie spots a man waiting on the street below from the top deck of a London bus. They make eye contact and have an inexplicably strong connection. Laurie and her best friend Sarah spend the next year searching London for the mystery man. She finds him the following Christmas when Sarah introduces him as Jack, her boyfriend. The rest of the book follows Laurie and Jack over the next several years, becoming close friends while avoiding the fact that they once shared that special moment.

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September 2018 Reads

September started out as a slow reading month. I hadn’t found a book I absolutely loved in forever, but after starting a Netgalley account toward the end of the month, my slump definitely improved. I’m still having some trouble with reading consistently, but I think the more the fall season progresses, the more books I can get through. Colder weather means more of an excuse to stay inside and read!

Part of what initially delayed my book count this month was attempting to read The Kiss Quotient and The Wedding Date. These two books have gotten so much hype in the blogging community, and initially, it looked like they would live up to those high standards. I loved that they both had unique heroines and, particularly in the case of The Kiss Quotient, provided insight into the minds of people who are rarely highlighted in fiction. But other than focusing on underrepresented perspectives, the overall stories weren’t very remarkable or investing to me. I couldn’t get on board with either author’s writing style, basically confirming to me that lately I crave stronger writing in order to really enjoy a book. I ended up abandoning both books about halfway through. I wanted to like them so badly, but they just weren’t for me.

Luckily, my September reading material drastically improved after I left the books behind. Life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying!

Good Luck With That, by Kristan Higgins (★★★☆☆) 

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Count this as more of a 3.5-star read. Authors never come to bookshops near me, so when I found out Kristan Higgins was making an appearance to promote this book at a new indie bookstore 15 minutes away, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to see her. Good Luck With That follows Marley and Georgia after their longtime friend from weight loss camp, Emerson, passes away from complications with obesity. Her death inspires the two women to achieve the simple goals they all listed as teens and assumed were only attainable if they were skinny.

The conversation about this book online and at the signing was definitely multifaceted and opinionated. Addressing weight and body image in a way that helps people relate to book characters rather than feel isolated from them is complicated, and you can’t please everyone. While I’ve never had problems with my weight, I’ve always had on-and-off struggles with my self image and liking the way I look. Georgia and Marley definitely expressed some of my own feelings about self-esteem, but overall, this wasn’t my favorite Higgins book. The writing, setting, and family relationships didn’t stick out to me as much as past reads have, but the book’s focus is definitely a good conversation starter.

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July 2018 Reads

Happy August! I had a pretty great reading month in July. Within the first few days, I finished a non-fiction book I started in the last week of June, read the perfect romantic comedy to go along with the summer season, and returned to the YA genre for the first time in years. In the later half of the month, I encountered some books with slower, more unexciting paces, but finished July with a beautiful book that totally won over my English major heart.

Some of my early reading plans for this month include picking up Crazy Rich Asians and Curtis Sittenfeld’s short story collection, and I have some fun-sounding books on my Kindle that I bought through my Amazon ebook deal emails. July was definitely a month of preferring to read rather than watch TV or movies. so we’ll see how August goes. Until then, enjoy my insights on the seven books I read in July!

American Princess: The Love Story of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, by Leslie Carroll (★★★☆☆) 

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I get that it’s way too soon to read a book about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle that really gets it. I think the reason the only royal family biography I’ve finished and really loved was Sally Bedell Smith’s Elizabeth the Queen is because so much of the Queen’s life and reign is already behind her. Delivering a book that feels comprehensive and accurate about any other member of the family is trickier because they’re either still too young or haven’t risen to their full power yet. Wouldn’t you rather read a biography about Prince Charles that handles how he took over his mother’s role as ruler rather than what he’s been doing the past decade to pass the time?

That being said, while reading this, I did learn a lot about Meghan’s upbringing and young adult life that I didn’t know before. The craziness of her love story with Harry still gets me every time. This book shifted between Harry and Meghan’s lives and what they were doing at parallel moments, eventually culminating in how they met and became engaged. Seeing as it was published before the actual royal wedding, the book flanders a bit at the end, hence the lower rating.

Playing with Matches, by Hannah Orenstein (★★★★☆)

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I saw this debut author speak at Her Conference on a book-writing panel last summer, and since then, we now work for the same company. I’ve never met her, but I definitely recommend following her great Twitter feed. Based on Orenstein’s own experiences working as a New York City matchmaker, Playing with Matches is about a recent college grad who snags a matchmaking job in Manhattan out of desperation. Working with much older and experienced clients, she basically has to fake it till she makes it. When her longtime boyfriend betrays her, one of her client’s hunky matches may soon complicate the professional approach she has to maintain over her clients’ love lives.

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June 2018 Reads

I’ve been so distracted with work and other writing projects that I’ve definitely been putting off a recap of my June reads. Plus, I’ve delved into such enjoyable books this month in July that the books below haven’t exactly stuck out that much since I finished them. It wasn’t until the end of the month that I realized most of what I read was non-fiction, but it seems that I’ve recently gone through phases of preferring non-fiction or documentaries over literary fiction and TV shows. Anyone else feel that way every now and then?

July has already gone down a significantly different path in terms of what I’ve read. While I’m so excited to eventually share what books I’ve read in the past two weeks or so, here’s what I have to say about the five books I read in June.

From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood, by Nancy McCabe  (★★★☆☆)

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I received this memoir / literary critique for Christmas a few years ago, and while I read about half of it soon after getting it, I never picked it up again. I rarely buy books because of a lack of storage, so I’ve been trying to chug through the stories on my shelves that I somehow haven’t read yet. McCabe’s book follows her adult journeys to the real-life settings of her favorite childhood books, such as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, the Anne of Green Gables books, and Little Women. She takes these trips with her young daughter, who is usually quite indifferent to the meaning of these locations, and looks at these classic stories from her grown perspective, often becoming disappointed with how problematic the stories actually were.

Like many girls, I reread the Little House books so much as a kid, but as I’ve mentioned before, I love going back to the Anne books and try to reread Anne of the Island at least once a year. I’m also fiercely protective of Anne Shirley, and McCabe’s critique of those books didn’t sit well with me. I get that, as an academic, it was her job to be critical of the stories, but at certain points, it just seemed like she was finding reasons to complain. I did like some of McCabe’s insights, but I was glad to part with her voice at the end of the book.

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May 2018 Reads

Who else thinks May is the official start of beach reads season? I don’t exclusively associate beach reads with bright book covers depicting the seashore or a woman in pink heels and, instead, I like to think of them as books that just make you happy. I love an engrossing, literary read as much as the next gal, but I just adore when the weather is finally nice enough to just sprawl out in a hammock and cruise through a well-written yet easygoing book.

That being said, I definitely read my fair share of “happy” books this month, but I have some more serious reads planned for June. I have Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere ready to go on my Kindle, and I’m also hoping to get through The Handmaid’s Tale and the new Robin Williams biography this month. After recently finishing the TV series Home Fires in the course of a single weekend (I was obsessed), I’ve also been reading its novelized continuation, Keep the Home Fires Burning. 

As for May’s reads, I’m so proud of what I got through. All of these books were easy to dive in and out of, helping prevent any reading slumps and motivating me to seek new books when the time came. Keep scrolling to see what I thought of each individual read!

In Your Dreams, by Kristan Higgins (★★★★☆) 

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Mark this one down as an actual 4.5-star read. I selected In Your Dreams from my library Overdrive without knowing it was a later book in a series, but I went into it knowing enough praise about Higgins to feel positive about it. Given the details allotted to certain secondary characters, I quickly figured out there were other books about the main characters’ friends and family, but I became so invested in the story of Jack, the beloved only son in a family of vineyard owners, and Emmaline, a lonely neighborhood cop who’s in need of a date for her ex-fiancé’s wedding. Tortured by what he did in a recent local accident, Jack agrees to accompany her for the big day, but their weekend away introduces a romantic streak between the pair that Emmaline isn’t quite ready for.

On the surface, it sounds like an often poorly executed Hallmark movie but, apart from a somewhat abrupt happy ending, I loved Higgins’ writing. She built the characters of Jack and Emmaline so well through backstory and witty dialogue, and I fell in love with their small upstate New York town. I also liked that the book’s “conflict” actually happens quite quickly, allowing the reader to learn more about Jack and Emmaline in their normal, everyday setting rather than the heightened situation of said conflict. The book’s strong writing style and the lovable dynamic of Jack’s family convinced me to read the rest of the Blue Heron series, or at least Jack’s sisters’ stories. As you’ll see below, I didn’t wait too long to check out one of the other books!

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April 2018 Reads

Sooo April’s reading was not that diverse. I read three nonfiction books, two of which related to The Bachelor, and four books in total, three of which were written by authors named Amy and all of which were written by women whose first names started with A. Looking back at my month, those are funny little coincidences, but the lower number of reads isn’t too surprising. I had a busy month, but warmer weather always seems to help me breeze through tons of reading, so I have high hopes for May!

From Sand and Ash, by Amy Harmon (★★★★☆)

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I’ll wolf down a World War II story like nobody’s business, but I’ve never come across one set in Italy like From Sand and Ash. Even more specifically, the book delves into how Italian Jews were affected by the Holocaust, which I’ve never heard anything about before. Growing up in Florence together, Eva and Angelo are best friends who could’ve been something more, but Angelo follows a calling to priesthood, while Eva can’t pursue a career in music thanks to wartime laws against Jews. Both become involved in guiding Jews to safety and hiding them within Catholic convents and churches, which is truly how a lot of the country’s Jews managed to make it through the war unscratched.

I’ve read way too many World War II stories set in France, so I was excited for this more unique take on the wartime experience. It lacked a little something that made me absolutely love it, but it’s a great story!

Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure, by Amy Kaufman (★★★☆☆)

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March 2018 Reads

After a very low-key month of reading in February, I read such enjoyable books in March! We had some snow days this month that coincided with my own days off, which encouraged plenty of reading, and I was away from home for Easter weekend, which helped me finish off two books before the month ended.

As I predicted last month, a big chunk of my recent reads were by British author Harriet Evans, who I discovered at the end of February. Her books have quickly joined the ranks alongside the work of people like Meg Cabot and Jill Mansell as stories I can just dive into and happily cruise through till the end. Exploring her canon and reading a good balance of fiction and non-fiction resulted in a very satisfying March lineup of seven books!

Happily Ever After, by Harriet Evans (★★★★☆)

Out of the three Harriet Evans books I read this month, this one was my favorite, likely because it was the first book I read by the author. Once I read some of her other books, I realized that she resorts to a lot of the same character traits and situations, which can make it a little tricky to keep her books straight – all of the ones I read were still very entertaining, though!

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Happily Ever After first introduces Eleanor Bee as a young, clueless 22-year-old dreaming of a job in publishing. She falls in love with the wrong man, and as her career develops over the next 10 years, her family and personal life takes unexpected twists and turns. I’m a sucker for stories that follow the same characters over a long period of time, so this was a winning combination for my introduction to Harriet Evans’ work.

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February 2018 Reads

Compared to January, February was a slower reading month for me. I was working a lot and had several night shifts, which swallowed up my usual reading time. The month also completely sped by, which I stupidly wasn’t expecting! I still think people are recovering from their post-Christmas laziness, but spring is just around the corner.

While I wasn’t as satisfied with February’s crop of books as much as I was with last month’s, I feel very optimistic for March! I just discovered the British author Harriet Evans at my library this week, and she writes contemporary women’s fiction primarily set in London and New York, which is right up my alley! I can already sense that some of her books will very easily become favorites over the next few weeks.

But for now, these are the four books I finished in February.

We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter  (★★★☆☆)

If I could figure out how to make half-star ratings, We Were the Lucky Ones would actually receive 3.5 stars from me. It’s based on the author’s Jewish family’s true experiences in World War II Europe, but to the point of all but one of the characters having their real-life names and there being little to no fictional aspects of the story. It does read like a novel, but jumps forward in time each chapter and includes the POV of nearly every family member.

Despite the nontraditional storytelling, I was definitely invested in finding out what happened in this book and it kept me reading. That being said, chapters would end with characters in very stressful or unpredictable situations, and then the next time you’d hear about the character, it would be anywhere from a few months to a year ahead in time. I think that, although it was very readable, the book did work with too many characters, preventing me from growing particularly attached to any of them individually.

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January 2018 Reads

Thanks to the bitterly cold and snowy first two weeks of January and more free time than usual before I started a new job, I finished six books in January that were all downloaded onto my Kindle. I’ve recently found that I can get through a book much quicker by reading it on my e-reader — maybe it has to do with seeing a smaller amount of text on the screen than on a single page?

Seeing as I’m out of school  now and working on my computer all day, I think I’ve felt more drawn to reading during downtime, so I’m very excited to see if I read a similar number of books in February. So, for the first time on my blog, I’m sharing my thoughts about the books I read this month!

51osibl6uil-_sx324_bo1204203200_Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes, by Elizabeth Bard (★★★☆☆)

This is a travel memoir capturing the author’s budding relationship with a Frenchman and her transition to full-time life in France when their connection turns serious. It includes French recipes that Bard tried out while adjusting to the stylistic and cultural differences of an European kitchen.

I skimmed through the recipes included in the book and enjoyed the author’s personal story, but I’ve definitely read similar books, so Lunch in Paris wasn’t particularly special in the end.

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