Y'all…what a time it’s been. We’ve all experienced the pandemic in unique ways, and one of mine was to get back into serious reading. Hopefully some of you will find at least a few of these books worth checking out! This is my haul from March through today. (I finished the last two just last night!)
I read 21 books.
I also *tried* to read four books (1 nonfiction and 3 novels). I won't be mean and name-names...but they all sucked in their own special way. I always give a book a few chapters before I toss it from my pile, and the tossing happened to one nonfiction pieces and three novels over the past few months. In comparison to how many I finished, I feel like that's a pretty good ratio of success!
The Books I Read:
The Last Letter from Your Lover—Jojo Moyes
So…I was happily enjoying this book, almost on the last chapter, when I realized with sudden clarity: I had read this novel before. I’m embarrassed to admit that because it usually doesn’t take me that long to realize I’ve already read something (and had I consulted my handy dandy excel spreadsheet, I would’ve seen the title appear on the list of books I’ve read over the years). Nevertheless, I couldn’t recall reading it when I purchased it, and since I love Jojo Moyes’ novels, I’m happy to include this heart-achingly beautiful love story on this list. I love the way Moyes effectively transitions between time periods (not a gift that many authors possess).
Home Again—Kristin Hannah
I mentioned in a previous post that after reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, I made a list of all the novels she’s written so that I could make sure I read them all. Well, Home Again was the next in line, and I read it in three days. Here’s an example of author who can blend points of view and time periods without making the reader confused. The love stories that tangle in this novel are so well written. I do think there was a major plot hole that was never addressed, but it didn’t interfere too much with the rest of the book. Of course, I recommend.
This was a collection book (so two stories): “The Name of the Game” and “Once More with Feeling.” All I’m going to say is that Nora is my ride-or-die when it comes to romance novels (that are totally not realistic). They’re the perfect before-bed book. I will always recommend Nora.
Kitchen Yarns—Ann Hood
This was brilliant. It’s the kind of book and writing that I envy. I loved reading the titles of each essay or random sentences out loud to my sister – they always garnered some kind of hilarious reaction.
Home Front—Kristin Hannah
Amazing. It’s a novel about love and relationships, families and friendships, war and deployment. Published in 2012 but set in 2005, the topics that Hannah touches on in this novel will never not be relevant. (I cried more than once while reading it.) A 20/10 must read.
The Great Pretender—Susannah Cahalan
This was a particularly timely read. Not that anyone I know is experiencing a mental health crisis, but COVID-19 has definitely been a mentally challenging time for all, myself included, and this book was just fascinating. Cahalan weaves us through the history of mental health illness in America and her storytelling skills are enviable. My biggest takeaway from this book was about perception and reaction: When you view someone as mentally ill, then anything they do or say will be viewed through that lens. This idea is applicable to everything in life. If I’m in a bad mood and think you’re annoying, then anything you do (even if you’re being kind) will be viewed as annoying. It’s not a new concept to me, but I think there are some lessons we only learn because we see it in a different context and then it radically shifts the way that we view the world. If you like reading nonfiction, more historical/journalism pieces, then this book is definitely worth your time.
Firefly Lane—Kristin Hannah
This book was amazing. Leave is to Kristin Hannah keep the reader interested over a span of 30+ years (and then end the book in a non-cliché way). This novel will make you reexamine your relationship with your mother, question if the path you’re currently on is the one you truly want to pursue, and remind you that life is precious. Do what makes your heart sing—always.
The Husband Hour—Jamie Brenner
I stumbled across The Husband Hour probably two+ years ago while at a library book sale; the novel has dutifully followed me in my various moves since then. The time finally came for me to read it this summer…and I did within three days (I would’ve read it faster if not for that whole full-time job thing!). This book is jam-packed with drama and plot twists, but it works. You’d think that suspense throughout the whole novel (of getting to the final details about some serious family drama) would be annoying (and it was a little at times because my brain couldn’t read faster), but it wasn’t. When I finished the book, I said, “Oh my god.” I can’t seem to put into words how surprisingly good this book was; I give it a 10/10. It also touches on a very real issue regarding brain damage from high contact sports (chronic traumatic encephalopathy—aka CTE).
Where the Crawdads Sing—Delia Owens
I’ve gotten to a place where I’m reading a book every three days, as I mentioned in the above paragraph, and Where the Crawdads Sing was no exception. I’ve been waiting to read this book for like years now, ever since it made its way onto the New York Times' Best Seller List…and then stayed there. Like what could make a book that amazing? Apparently Delia Owens (a fellow UGA grad!). I won’t give anything away other than saying that you should most definitely schedule this book into your life as soon as possible. It’s an amazing novel. (Go Dawgs)
Private Scandal—Nora Roberts
There’s nothing like a good Nora Roberts’ love novel/murder mystery/stalking episode to really cleanse the palate between New York Times’ best sellers. She literally never disappoints. (Plus, it’s been a while since I’ve read a thick novel by her—her standard love stories are quite short. I was pleased.)
Hidden Valley Road—Robert Kolker
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it forever: Nonfiction books are not only massively informative, but they also allow for a greater appreciation and reflection of one’s life. In Hidden Valley Road, journalist Robert Kolker takes the reader into the lives of the 14 family members of the Galvin clan. Two parents…12 children...and six of the sons end up with schizophrenia. It’s an addictive read, and Kolker manages to cram so many perspectives, names, and memories into this book in a way that isn’t confusing. (The family tree at the beginning definitely helps.) The story is also woven with historical recounts of the medical and psychological fields with regards to the study, diagnosis, and “cure” of the mental illness. Really fascinating read.
The Flavours of Love—Dorothy Koomson
I highly recommend not reading this book. It was just not good. The constant time change was incredibly confusing. The main character was unbelievably annoying. Halfway through the book, it all of a sudden ceases to be a murder mystery and becomes a novel about an eating disorder. Please don’t waste your time reading this. 0/10
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know—Malcolm Gladwell
This book definitely was not what I was expecting. I guess I was excited to read about navigating relationships with new people or something, but what I read instead was about common psychological terms that help explain interactions between strangers, and Gladwell uses some pretty well known (infamous) examples to illustrate his points. It’s an incredibly relevant book. You'll definitely learn something by the time you're done reading.
First, this is a book of short stories. Do not forget this fact and then start reading and find yourself done with a few “chapters” and utterly confused. I’m apparently a bit of an idiot right before bed (aka my prime reading time). Luckily, once I had this “revelation,” the things I had already read made way more sense and I was able to enjoy (if one can use that word in the context of reading about war) the rest of the stories much more. We all know that war is scary and dangerous, but Klay’s stories give insight to the minds of soldiers and officers, showing the effect of these brutal experiences in the form of fictitious characters. Unfortunately, we all also know that these fictitious men and women are all too real. And they experience the same things.
In The Woods—Tana French
I was excited about this book; it had received such praise and I wanted to make sure I read this first before diving into her sequel The Likeness. French’s writing and sense of storytelling are amazing. I loved the main character’s inner dialogue and jokes. French made 600+ pages seem like nothing; I quickly read through the book within a few days. Towards the middle of the book, though, the main characters have a weird falling out that makes no sense, and it drove me crazy for the rest of the book. And the ending. Really disappointing. I won’t say what (didn’t) happen, but let’s just say that something that’s talked about for literally the entire book never has a proper conclusion; it was really upsetting. I’m still going to read her second book, though, so this is a confusing review.
The Au Pair—Emma Rous
This. Novel. Was. So. Good. I joked with my sister, especially after reading In The Woods that the antagonist was a witch (it wasn’t). But Rous does such a good job of mixing the past and present without being confusing, hooking the reader from the beginning and getting them to follow along, and she even nailed the ending. I can’t wait to read her novel that comes out in January (The Perfect Guests).
The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable—Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
A really wonderful, enlightening, and educational read for anyone who wants to continue in their personal journey of forgiveness (and figuring out what that means for you). Definitely left an impression on me, as I continue my own forgiveness journey.
Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery—Robert Kolker
After reading his more recent book, I added Lost Girls to my list. I admire and respect the amount of work and diligence, fact-checking and countless hours of research and interviews that go into one of Kolker’s books. It’s insanely impressive. The only flaw in this story was the fact that there wasn’t some kind of character list in this book to help the reader keep track of the 5,000 characters. It really was quite difficult to keep up, and I stopped trying about halfway through—I still managed to finish the book and understand what happened. It’s an interesting deep dive into the world of escorts in the age of the internet as well as the family dynamics that shape and define the women.
The Silent Patient—Alex Michaelides
Y’all. I’ve been wanting to read this book since it debuted on the best seller list (and then stayed there for like…forever). I waited another three-ish months for the e-book version from the library and was so PUMPED when I got it. The book was so good. I described it as a “mind f**k” because…that ending, though. But the very, very last page: I was pissed. The very ending absolutely sucked. Would I still recommend the book? Yes. Should I warn you that you’ll likely be just as disappointed and confused as I was reading the last page? Yes, and I am.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead —Brené Brown
I’ve heard a lot about Brené Brown; my boss has mentioned her a few times, as have other people. Over the past year, I felt like I heard her name so many times it was necessary to read some of her work, so I started with Daring Greatly. Her style of writing is enjoyable and personable. Despite the topic of allowing yourself to be vulnerable (which seems so heavy), this book was such an easy read, but it’ll definitely make you think. I plan on reading more of her work.
The Proposal—Jasmine Guillory
Such a fun, fast, and easy read. The characters were easy to love; the plot moved quickly but still made sense. It was simply just a good read (more Guillory romance novels to come!).
TOTAL READS: 21